Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can include:
- Constantly feeling tired or chronic fatigue
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Joint pain
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy
- Poor memory
- Inability to concentrate well
- Mood changes, like increased depression and anxiety
- Having abnormal heart problems, such as palpitations
- Poor dental health, including bleeding gums and mouth sores
- Digestive problems like nausea, diarrhea or cramping
- A poor appetite
- A more serious deficiency can also cause a form of anemia called pernicious anemia, a serious condition that can cause memory loss, confusion and even long-term dementia
Who is most at risk for having a vitamin B12 deficiency? Elderly people who tend to have impaired digestion are one of the most susceptible populations. This is because older people tend to produce less stomach acid that is needed to convert vitamin B12 properly.
Top 9 Vitamin B12 Benefits
1. Helps Maintain Energy Levels
Vitamin B12 enhances your metabolism by converting carbohydrates into usable glucose in the body. Consequently, individuals deficient in vitamin B12 often experience fatigue due to the reliance on glucose derived from carbohydrate foods for energy. Moreover, vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in neurotransmitter signaling, facilitating muscle contractions and providing you with the energy needed to stay active and prevent fatigue.
2. Prevents Memory Loss and Lowers Risk of Neurodegenerative Disease
A vitamin B12 deficiency can result in diverse neurologic and psychiatric disturbances. Due to its crucial role in promoting nerve health and facilitating neurotransmitter signaling, vitamin B12 actively enhances cognitive function and helps reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
3. Boosts Mood and Helps the Nervous System to Properly Function
Vitamin B12 actively contributes to the healthy regulation of the nervous system, including the reduction of mood disorders like depression and anxiety. Together with folate, it plays a key role in one-carbon metabolism, responsible for producing the vital compound called SAM (S-adenosyl methionine), which is essential for neurological function, stress management, and mood regulation.
Additionally, vitamin B12 is essential for concentration and cognitive processes, including learning. Therefore, a deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to difficulties in focusing and an elevated risk of attention disorders.
4. Plays a Role in Maintaining Heart Health
Vitamin B12 actively contributes to cardiovascular health through various mechanisms, which is crucial considering the global prevalence of heart disease as the leading cause of death. One significant way in which vitamin B12 benefits the heart is by reducing elevated homocysteine levels, now recognized as a major risk factor for heart disease. Homocysteine, an amino acid, is influenced by the blood levels of B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B12.
Moreover, vitamin B12 aids in protecting against heart disease, such as heart attacks or strokes, by lowering high levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream. Additionally, there is evidence suggesting that B12 can help regulate elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels. B vitamins also play a role in managing atherosclerotic diseases, characterized by the dangerous accumulation of plaque in the arteries.
5. Needed for Healthy Skin and Hair
Vitamin B12 actively contributes to the health of your skin, hair, and nails as it plays a vital role in cell reproduction. Vitamin B12 promotes skin health by minimizing redness, dryness, inflammation, and acne blemishes. It can even be topically applied to the skin to alleviate symptoms of psoriasis and eczema. Additionally, vitamin B12 helps reduce hair breakage and strengthens nails, making them more resilient.
6. Aids in Digestion
Vitamin B12 actively supports a healthy metabolism and aids in the breakdown of foods within the stomach by facilitating the production of digestive enzymes. An essential way in which vitamin B12 benefits digestion is by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut. This helps eliminate harmful bacteria, thereby preventing digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) or Candida.
7. Needed for a Healthy Pregnancy
Vitamin B12 actively participates in the production of nucleic acid, specifically DNA, which serves as the fundamental genetic material for the development of the entire body. As a result, vitamin B12 is not only a crucial nutrient for growth and development but also an essential component for a healthy pregnancy. Furthermore, vitamin B12 interacts with folate in the body, potentially reducing the risk of birth defects like neural tube defects.
8. May Help Prevent Cancer
Ongoing research is actively investigating the potential of vitamin B12 supplementation, especially in conjunction with folate, as a means to reduce the risk of specific types of cancers. Initial studies indicate that vitamin B12 positively impacts the immune system, potentially aiding in the prevention of various cancers, such as cervical, prostate, and colon cancers.
9. Helps Produce Red Blood Cells and Prevent Anemia
Vitamin B12 actively contributes to the production of healthy red blood cells. It plays a vital role in preventing megaloblastic anemia, a type of anemia characterized by symptoms such as chronic fatigue and weakness.