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What is Vitamin B-12?

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What is Vitamin B-12?
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis It contains cobalt, therefore the compounds with vitamin B12 activity are collectively called "cobalamins".

Vitamin B12, binds to protein in food, and once consumed it gets released by the gastric juices during digestion in the stomach. It is mainly synthesized by bacteria and is found primarily in meat, eggs and dairy products.
Protein rich foods - Meats, chicken, fish, eggs, beef are a good source of Vitamin B 12
What are good sources of Vitamin B-12?
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.

Fermentation in the manufacture of yogurt destroys much of VitB12 present. as does boiling milk. Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods, but fortified breakfast cereals are an excellent option for vegetarians

Vegetarians should ensure their diet includes foods fortified with VitB12.A range of VitB12 fortified foods are available, these includes vecon veg stock,veggieburger mixes, textured veg protein, Soya milk,veg and sunflower margarines and breakfast cereals.
Enriched Breakfast cereals are a good source of Vitamin B 12 specially for vegetarians
Food Sources of Vitamin B12 [13]
Food per serving Micrograms (mcg) Percent DV*
Liver, beef, braised, 1 slice 48 800
Clams, cooked, breaded and fried, 3 ounces 34.2 570
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 100% of the DV for vitamin B12 1 serving 6 100
Trout, rainbow, wild, cooked, 3 ounces 5.4 90
Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 3 ounces 4.9 80
Trout, rainbow, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces 4.2 50
Beef, top sirloin, broiled, 3 ounces 2.4 40
Cheeseburger, double patty and bun, 1 sandwich 1.9 30
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV for vitamin B12 1.5 25
Yogurt, plain, 1 cup 1.4 25
Haddock, cooked, 3 ounces 1.2 20
Tuna, white, 3 ounces 1 15
Milk, 1 cup 0.9 15
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce 0.9 15
Beef taco, 1 taco 0.8 13
Ham, cured, roasted, 3 ounces 0.6 10
Egg, large, 1 whole 0.6 10
Chicken, roasted, ½ breast 0.3 6
* DV = Daily Value. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for vitamin B12 is 6.0 mcg.
Some other vegetarian foods high in vitamin B12 are vecon, veg stock, veggieburger mixes, textured veg protein, soya milk, veg and sunflower margarines.
What are the functions of Vitamin B-12
  • Vitamin B12, plays an important role in the metabolism of nerve tissues, protein fats and carbohydrates.
  • Vitamin B12 is essential for the formation and maturation of red blood cells.
  • Vitamin B12 is concerned with the maintenance of normal health and activity of certain parts of the nervous system
Tofu, soya milk, are a good source of vitamin B12
What are some deficiency disorders due to Vitamin B-12?
Individuals who have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from foods, as well as vegetarians who consume no animal foods, might benefit from vitamin B12- fortified foods, oral vitamin B12 supplements, or vitamin B12 injections
Tip for Vegetarians
Strict vegetarians are at greater risk developing vitamin B12 deficiency because natural food sources of vitamin B12 are limited to animal foods. Vegetarians are recommended to consume fortified breakfast cereals that are one of the few sources of vitamin B12 from plants and can be used as a reliable dietary source of vitamin B12.
Dairy products - milk, cheese etc are a good source of vitamin B 12
Symptoms of Vitamin B-12 deficiency.
  • Megaloblastic anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Constipation
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Neurological changes - numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • Soreness of the mouth or tongue
  • Due to deficiency of VitB12 pernicious or macrocyctic or megablastic anemia is produced.
  • Deficiency may also cause hyperglycemia, growth is retarded, nervousness and irritability also observed.
What are the ?Daily Requirement' of Vitamin B-12
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months* 0.4 mcg 0.4 mcg    
7-12 months* 0.5 mcg 0.5 mcg    
1-3 years 0.9 mcg 0.9 mcg    
4-8 years 1.2 mcg 1.2 mcg    
9-13 years 1.8 mcg 1.8 mcg    
14+ years 2.4 mcg 2.4 mcg 2.6 mcg!* Adequate Intake
What are possible drug interactions that might hinder absorption of Vitamin B-12?
  • Metformin may cause diminished absorption of vitamin B12. Reduced serum levels of vitamin B12 occur in a significant percentage of patients taking metformin chronically
  • Absorption of vitamin B12 may be decreased by anticonvulsants such as phenytoin, phenobarbital
  • Colchicines, an anti-inflammatory medication for the treatment of gout, has been reported to reduce absorption of vitamin B12 if taken more than two weeks.
By Ritu Jain,
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