Vitamin B12, also known as Cobalamin is a water soluble vitamin required for a variety of biological processes in the human body. From metabolism of cells to the smooth functioning of the nervous system, Vitamin B12 plays a key role in maintaining a healthy physical state. Some say Spirulina is the best source of Vitamin B12*. It can also be obtained from eggs, fish, meat, dairy products, etc.
Vitamin B12 has numerous health benefits and can help your body in various ways. Here’s a look at the different benefits offered by Vitamin B12:
1.) Creation of Red Blood Cells – The formation, maintenance and repair of red blood cells is largely dependent on Vitamin B12. Athletes and people with low energy levels often take B12 injections, for an instant boost in energy levels. Vitamin B12 also plays a vital role in the regeneration and development of DNA and RNA (the genetic material in our body). It is essential for the rapid synthesis of DNA and RNA during cell division, especially in tissues where cells are dividing rapidly.
B12 Deficiency can disrupt DNA production and lead to abnormal cell growth, leading to anemia.
2.) Healthy Nervous System – Vitamin B12 assists in the smooth and proper functioning of the brain and nerve cells in the body. Each nerve fiber is surrounded by an insulating fatty sheath made up of Myelin, which is a complex protein. Myelin not only protects the nerves but also allows transmission of electrical impulses between the nerve cells throughout the body. Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the metabolism of fatty acids essential for maintenance of Myelin.
A deficiency of Vitamin B12 can have serious neurological effects ranging from loss of sensation to visual impairment to dementia and memory loss.
3.) Treats Depression – Vitamin B12 is known to promote activity of hormones and neurotransmitters that can influence your mood and emotional state. These hormones include Dopamine, Serotonin and Melatonin. Depressed patients are often prescribed Vitamin B12 supplements as it can trigger serotonin ‘happy hormone’ production and uplift their spirits.
A deficiency of B12 vitamin can lead to stress, anxiety and depression.
4.) Controls Homocysteine Levels – Proper dosage of Vitamin B12 in combination with Folic acid can effectively control the homocysteine levels (an amino acid made from proteins) in the blood plasma cells. Vitamin B12 deficiency can result in hematological conditions, increasing the risk of heart diseases, stroke and osteoporosis
5.) Healthy Skin & Hair – Vitamin B12 is vital for DNA and RNA synthesis and cell reproduction. Our skin, hair and nails undergo a process of constant growth and renewal, which is why they need adequate amount of B Vitamins, especially B12 for maintaining a healthy growth. Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to dry skin, wrinkles, acne, brittle hair and nails and skin problems such as dermatitis.
6.) Promotes Absorption of Folic Acid – Folic acid is essential for the synthesis of red blood cells in the body. Without Vitamin B12, folic acid cannot be regenerated in the body and becomes trapped in a metabolically useless form. For proper absorption and regeneration of folic acid, one needs to get adequate amount of Vitamin B12. Both folic acid and Vitamin B12 are dependent on each other, as deficiency of Vitamin B12 is followed by a deficiency of folic acid, and vice versa.
7.) Weight Loss – Vitamin B12 is also known as the ‘Energy Vitamin’ since it can give a real and instant energy boost. It can speeden up the metabolism process, thus burning more calories and increasing the rate of weight loss. It also increases the overall energy levels in the body, allowing you to raise your level of physical activity and exercise.
Also as we discussed previously, Vitamin B12 helps in fighting stress and depression, symptoms which are usually associated with weight gain.
8.) Promotes Healthy Pregnancy – Compared to normal adults, pregnant women need a higher amount of Vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, maintain a healthy nervous system , release energy from food and to process folic acid. B12 deficiency can cause birth defects and even miscarriage. The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of Vitamin B12 for pregnant women is 2.6 mcg per day, and it is essential that this requirement is met.
9.) Helps Combat Mental Decline – Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient essential for everyone including older adults. As per recent researches, adequate amount of Vitamin B12 can prevent mental decline associated with old age. Alzheimer’s diseases, Dementia and short-term memory loss can all be prevented, as Vitamin B12 promotes healthy functioning of the brain and neurological system.
Experts have found that when patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or other memory problems were treated with vitamin B12, many of their symptoms disappeared within six months and they regained mental clarity and focus.
10.) Allows you to Sleep Better – Vitamin B12 enhances the production of Melatonin, a hormone that supports healthy sleep patterns. This is especially beneficial for older adults, as with age their body becomes less efficient in making this hormone. Vitamin B12 can assist in increasing Melatonin production allowing older people to sleep better.
While the above mentioned benefits of Vitamin B12 are well documented, there are several other benefits that are being studied by researchers and health experts worldwide. One of such studies shows that Vitamin B12 can drastically increase sperm count and treat male infertility. Similarly, tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears) can also be treated with B12 supplementation.
Vitamin B12 is undoubtedly an essential nutrient required for most of our life processes – from improving physical health to boosting mental performance, Vitamin B12 can help you in countless ways. Ensure that you get adequate amount of this vitamin either from dietary sources or through B12 supplements.
* The bioavailability of vitamin B in spirulina is in dispute. Several biological assays have been used to test for the presence of vitamin B-12. The most popular is the US Pharmacopeia method using the Lactobacillus leichmannii assay. Studies using this method have shown spirulina to be a minimal source of bioavailable vitamin B-12. (cobalamin) and similar compounds (corrinoids) that cannot be used in human metabolism. Cyanotech, a grower of spirulina, claims to have done a more recent assay, which has shown spirulina to be a significant source of cobalamin. However, the assay is not published for scientific review, so the validity of this assay is in doubt. The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada in their position paper on vegetarian diets state that spirulina cannot be counted on as a reliable source of active vitamin B-12. However, this assay does not differentiate between true B-12.