Why do we need Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is one of 8 B vitamins. All B vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is used to produce energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B complex vitamins, also help the body use fats and proteins. B complex vitamins are needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. They also help the nervous system function properly. Vitamin B12 is an especially important vitamin for maintaining healthy nerve cells, and it helps in the production of DNA and RNA, the body's genetic material. Vitamin B12 works closely with vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, to help make red blood cells and to help iron work better in the body. Folate and B12 work together to produce S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a compound involved in immune function and mood.

Vitamins B12, B6, and B9 work together to control blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine are associated with heart health. However, researchers are not sure whether homocysteine is a cause of heart problems or just a marker that indicates someone may have heart problems.

It is not uncommon for older people to be mildly deficient. This may be because their diets are not as healthy, or because they have less stomach acid, which the body needs to absorb B12.

Do we need to take vitamin B12 daily or can we store vitamin B12? 

All B vitamins are water soluble, meaning that the body does not store them. However, Vitamin B12 can be stored in the liver. 

What is the source of Vitamin B12?

B12 is the only vitamin that contains a trace element (cobalt), which is why it’s called cobalamin. Cobalamin is produced in the gut of animals. It’s the only vitamin we can’t obtain from plants or sunlight. Plants don’t need B12 so they don’t store it.

Note to vegetarians and vegans: B12 is found ONLY in animal products. A common myth amongst vegetarians and vegans is that it’s possible to get B12 from plant sources like seaweed, fermented soy, spirulina and brewers yeast. But plant foods said to contain B12 actually contain B12 analogs called cobalamides that block intake of and increase the need for true B12.

The best Vitamin B12 is Methylcobalamin.

Cyanaocobalamin is the most frequently used form of B12 supplementation in the US. But recent evidence suggests that hydroxycobalamin (frequently used in Europe) is superior to cyanocobalamin, and methylcobalamin may be superior to both – especially for neurological disease.

Japanese studies indicate that methylcobalamin is even more effective in treating the neurological sequelae of B12 deficiency, and that it may be better absorbed because it bypasses several potential problems in the B12 absorption cycle. On top of that, methylcobalamin provides the body with methyl groups that play an role in various biological processes important to overall health.