Vitamin B12: roles and functions

Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin for the blood, heart, brain and nerves. Vitamin B12 is also involved in detoxification. We explain what vitamin B12 is and introduce the functions and functions of the vitamin.

Vitamin B12 is actually a group of vitamins

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin, which means that the body cannot make the vitamin on its own. Instead, it must be ingested with food. Vitamin B12 is particularly found in animal foods, and very rarely in plant foods. We explain details in our article Vitamin B12 in foods.

The term “vitamin B12” is the name for a whole group of so-called cobalamines [8]. This includes:

  1. Adenosylcobalamin: Adenosylcobalamin is the active form of vitamin B12 and also the most common B12 form in the organs.
  2. Methylcobalamin: Methylcobalamin is another active form of vitamin B12 and, along with hydroxocobalamin, is the most common form of vitamin B12 in the blood.
  3. Hydroxocobalamin: Hydroxocobalamin is the storage form of vitamin B12, which makes up about half of the vitamin B12 in the blood, but is also found in many foods. On the one hand, hydroxocobalamin has to be converted into one of the two active forms in three conversion steps, but also has important tasks before the conversion (e.g. in detoxification and in the elimination of nitrous stress).
  4. Cyanocobalamin: Cyanocobalamin is a synthetic form of cobalamin that does not occur naturally, but is often used in vitamin preparations. Cyanocobalamin first has to be converted into an active form in the body, can hardly be stored, is not as bioavailable and therefore not very recommendable overall.
  5. Analogous: Analaga are also called pseudo-vitamin B12. These are compounds that have a similar structure to vitamin B12 (without having its positive effects) and therefore block the transporter molecules of the real vitamin B12 and thus inhibit the absorption of real B12. Analogues are therefore B12 forms that are not bioavailable and are therefore classified as harmful.

The roles and functions of vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an extremely important vitamin. It is involved in the formation of blood and cells, in the energy metabolism and the body’s own detoxification; it also protects the cardiovascular system and is indispensable for the brain and nervous system. The most important tasks and functions of vitamin B12 include the following:

Vitamin B12 for cell division and DNA formation

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is involved in cell division and cell growth as well as in the formation of DNA (genetic material) [3]. Children with a deficiency therefore suffer from serious developmental disorders, which of course can also be the case during pregnancy if the expectant mother has a vitamin B12 deficiency. A vitamin B12 deficiency should therefore be avoided, especially during pregnancy, yes B12 deficiency in the mother is said to even cause diabetes in the child can favor [4].

Vitamin B12 for the formation and regeneration of the nerves

Vitamin B12 is very important for the nervous system, as it helps with the formation and regeneration of the nerve fiber sheaths. Neurological as well as neuropsychiatric disorders are therefore among the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. These can spread to depression and dementia [5, 6, 7].

No wonder it was also found in a study published in January 2016 that people with autism and also people with schizophrenia have extremely low vitamin B12 levels [1]. The neuropsychiatric disorders can occur even before the anemia described below occurs.

It should also be borne in mind that some neurological disorders are irreversible, i.e. cannot regress after taking vitamin B12 if the B12 intake is too late.

Vitamin B12 for breaking down homocysteine

Together with vitamin B6 and folic acid, vitamin B12 breaks down the toxic homocysteine ​​- which naturally arises in the course of protein metabolism – into a non-toxic substance [2]. In the case of a B12 deficiency, the vitamin B12 cannot break down homocysteine. The homocysteine ​​level in the blood is now rising and poses a serious risk to the blood vessels there. Homocysteine ​​damages the blood vessel walls, so that repair processes have to take place there, which in turn can lead to arteriosclerotic deposits. Therefore, high homocysteine ​​levels are considered a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

Vitamin B12 for blood formation

Since vitamin B12 is also involved in blood formation, a vitamin B12 deficiency leads to a special form of anemia. It is what is known as pernicious anemia [9]who we just like many others Symptoms and consequences of a vitamin B12 deficiency describe in detail in the previous link.

Vitamin B12 during pregnancy and breastfeeding

Since vitamin B12 is involved in blood formation, cell division, cell growth and the formation of genetic material, as mentioned at the beginning, you should pay close attention to a good vitamin B12 supply during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Failure to do so can lead to developmental disorders in the infant and, in extreme cases, permanent neurological or psychological damage [4].

Breastfeeding women provide their infants with sufficient vitamin B12 through their breast milk – provided they are well supplied with the vitamin themselves. A vitamin B12 preparation combined with folic acid is ideal for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Vitamin B12 and the risk of overdose

Vitamin B12 is often offered in high-dose preparations. The mainstream media therefore repeatedly warn against overdosing. What these warnings are all about and why if you are taking them Vitamin B12 hardly causes an overdose we have explained in our corresponding article, which you can find in the previous link.

On the other hand, a vitamin B12 deficiency is much more common. We explain in our article Fix vitamin B12 deficiencyHow you can determine a vitamin B12 deficiency, how to correctly interpret the values ​​and which vitamin B12 supplements are available to remedy the deficiency.

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