What is it?
Vitamin B12 (aka cobalamin) is another multi-tasking B vitamin that is essential for human life.
B12 is kind of unique because it’s an architect for assembling new cells, yet also helps mature cells get rid of a pesky substance (more on this below) that can harm the heart, brain, eyes, bones, liver, kidneys, and arteries if it builds up.
B12 and folate work hand-in-hand on numerous vital projects in the body, so it’s crucial to get plenty of BOTH of these vitamins.
Where is it from?
More-generous food sources of vitamin B12 include liver, fish, beef, dairy foods, shellfish, and eggs, though many other foods contain quite small amounts of B12.
For vegetarians and vegans — especially children, teens, and pregnant or nursing women — supplements and vitamin-fortified foods are important B12 sources.
What does it do?
B12 is a busy, busy B!
- Working closely with folate, B12 aids learning, memory, and nerve transmission throughout life, but is extra important in childhood and as you get older.
- B12 is necessary for forming red blood cells that deliver life-giving oxygen to you and your cells.
- B12 is a star member of the body’s “bomb squad” for defusing a substance called homocysteine, which can accumulate and cause havoc in delicate body parts (more detail above).
- World-famous researchers Dr. Bruce Ames and Dr. Michael Fenech tell us that vitamin B12 is instrumental for maintaining the integrity of our DNA and limiting risky DNA mutations in new and aging cells alike.
Here’s a weird body reality — if you’re lacking B12 yet get plenty of folate, the folate will “mask” this deficiency on common lab tests, and nerve damage can happen before the mistake is realized. Getting enough B12 means not only nourishing yourself with healthy foods — it also takes good digestion to absorb and use B12 well.
B12 deficiency is not uncommon among older folks, people taking metformin or stomach acid blockers, women of reproductive age, and those with digestive issues. For these reasons, taking a B12 supplement — especially in the methylcobalamin form, which is the form that occurs naturally — can be a great way to keep your brain and body well-stocked with such a vital nutrient.