Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in the human body.
Within the entire population there are a few categories with higher risk of developing B12 deficiency: those who consume a vegan diet, elderly people and pregnant women.
Vitamin B12 and anemia
B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia, caused by the red blood cells changing shape. Due to a large and irregular shape, red blood cells are thus unable to move from the bone marrow to the bloodstream which may have rather serious consequences.
B12 in pregnancy
Vitamin B12 deficiency in the beginning stages of pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects, such as neural tube defects. Furthermore, maternal vitamin B12 deficiency may contribute to premature birth or miscarriage.
Other effects of vitamin B12 deficiency
Researchers also found that B12 lowers the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid found in the blood, that can cause heart disease and a type of age-related eye degeneration.
Low vitamin B12 levels can also cause various dermatologic symptoms, including hyperpigmentation, nail discoloration, hair changes, vitiligo (the loss of skin color in patches) and angular stomatitis (inflamed and cracked mouth corners).
Benefits of B12
Conversely, vitamin B12 may improve your mood. The effect of vitamin B12 on mood is not yet fully understood. However, this vitamin plays a vital role in synthesizing and metabolizing serotonin, a chemical responsible for regulating mood. The vitamin may play a role in preventing brain atrophy (loss of neurons) and often associated with memory loss or dementia.
In conclusion, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to rather serious health issues and that’s why you should consume foods that are rich in B12 like liver, red meat, eggs, clams, sardines, trout or B12 supplements and fortified foods in case you are following a vegan diet. The good news is that most of the people have enough B12 stores to last them for at least 6 months; unlike other B vitamins, cobalamin can be store in the body for longer periods of time.