Vitamin B-12: Overview
Vitamin B-12 is one of the B-complex vitamins which also includes biotin, choline, folic acid, inositol, vitamin B-2, vitamin B-3, vitamin B-5, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 can be found mostly in animal-source foods.
Vitamin B-12 plays a role in the production of energy, regulating nervous system function and blood chemistry. B-12 works in conjunction with folate (folic acid) to help in the process of synthesizing DNA and RNA. Vitamin B-12, folic acid, and B-6 work together to help metabolize the toxic amino acid homocysteine.
Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
B-12 deficiency has the same unpleasant neurological and psychological symptoms of folate deficiency. The elderly, strict vegetarians and individuals suffering from malabsorption, HIV disease, and gastric problems are at highest risk of B-12 deficiency. B-12 deficiency must be diagnosed by a doctor.
Vitamin B-12's Health Benefits
In addition to being necessary for good health, B-12 has been shown to have other benefits. Studies have shown a low level of vitamin B-12 is associated with elevated levels of homocysteine, increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. B-12 supplements have an anti-fatigue and energizing effect for some, but not all people.
Using Vitamin B-12
B-12 is available in several forms. The newest form of B-12, methylcobalamin, may be preferable since it is pre-methylated and requires no further conversion by the body, as do the other common forms, cobalamin and cyanocobalamin. Because vitamin B-12 is mostly found in animal products, strict vegetarians and elderly individuals should strongly consider supplementation. Consult your physician before using any dietary supplements if you are currently taking any medications, as vitamin B-12 may interact with other medications or drugs. Use as directed.