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Everything you need to know about vitamin B12

Everything you need to know about vitamin B12

Nutrients. 07.05.2019

Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in maintaining our well-being on a daily basis. It is also essential for ensuring that the brain functions as it should and is it plays an important part in the development of the nervous system.

So what exactly is vitamin B12 used for, where is it found and how much should we consume?

Vitamin B12: how it works and where it comes from?

Vitamin B12, also referred to as cobalamin, is one of the 8 vitamins in group B. Vitamins in group B play a vital role in cell metabolism.

B12 is a hydrosoluble vitamin (water soluble). Therefore, its effectiveness depends on how it is consumed. A food containing Vitamin B12 cooked in water will have a considerably lower B12 content.

The body stores this vitamin mainly in the liver, but also in the pancreas, heart and brain.

Where is it found?

As our organism is not able to synthesise it by itself, vitamin B12 must be supplemented through the foods we consume.

Vitamin B12 is found exclusively in products of animal origin.

Amount of vitamin B12 per 100 grams.

Liver 75 µg
Kidneys 40 µg
Shellfish 15 µg
Herring 11,5 µg
Beef 7 µg
Mackerel 5 µg
Tuna 4 µg
Cheese 2 µg
Egg 1,6 µg
Milk 0,4 µg
Chicken breast 0,34 µg

At a time when more and more people are choosing to eat animal-free products, the issues surrounding the consumption of vitamin B12 is taking on increasing importance.

It is recommended for those who follow a vegan diet to take B12 supplements in order to ensure that they do not suffer from any deficiencies.  

Although less restrictive, a vegetarian diet is also lacking in B12. This is why vegetarians are also advised to use dietary supplements to prevent any deficiency.

At Feed. we use, depending on the recipe, cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin. The industrial synthesis of vitamin B12 comes from bacterial cultures or the fermentation of microorganisms.

Vitamin B12 plays several important roles, particularly within the nervous system, nucleic acid synthesis and blood coagulation.

  • Nervous system: Vitamin B12 is essential in order to ensure the proper functioning of the brain and the nervous system because it allows the maintenance of the integrity of the myelin sheath (envelope covering the neurons) and participates in the formation and protection of nerve cells.
  • Synthesis of nucleic acids: Vitamin B12 is vital for DNA synthesis and cell renewal.
  • Blood coagulation: Vitamin B12 is anti-anaemic, meaning that it participates in the formation of red blood cells. In this sense, it plays a crucial role in the prevention of megaloblastic anaemias (depletion of blood in red blood cells).

ANSES recommends that the average adult has 2.5 micrograms per day.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women as well as the elderly are more easily subjected to vitamin deficiencies and therefore have slightly higher needs. This can vary from between 2.6-3 micrograms per day.

It is especially important for women who have a vegetarian or vegan diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding that they supplement their B12 intake.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause mental disorders, anaemias, digestive problems and inflammation of the tongue.

The symptoms can be:

  • Nervous disorders: Irritability, depression, coordination problems, memory problems, extreme tiredness.
  • Anaemia: Anaemia caused by a lack of B12 can be evidenced by the increase in size of red blood cells. This can lead to chronic fatigue.
  • Digestive problems: Weight loss, inflammation of the mouth or intestines and sometimes constipation or diarrhoea.

However, since the body builds up stocks throughout its life, it can take a long time for the reserves to empty. Therefore symptoms may not appear for a considerable amount of time.

Vitamin B12 deficiencies are rare and mostly affect vegetarians, vegans and people who have undergone ablative surgery (this kind of medical procedure can have an impact on the body’s ability to absorb vitamins).

To sum up

To sum up

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin found only in foods of animal origin.

It plays an important role in the nervous system, in the synthesis of nucleic acids and in blood coagulation.

ANSES recommends an intake of 2.5 micrograms per day. Women who are either pregnant or breastfeeding, as well as the elderly and those within a vegan or vegetarian diets should look to take vitamin B12 supplements.