Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 belongs to the Vitamin-B group, which are of eight kinds of viz. vitamin B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, B-7, B-9, and B-12. Structurally, vitamin B-12 is the largest among all other vitamins of the same group. It performs a significant role in brain health, the functioning of the nervous system, and synthesis of RBC. Vitamin B-12 is also known as Cobalamin.

Bacteria and archaea can secrete vitamin B12. These bacteria are found in plants, and these plants are eaten by some of herbivores animals, and in this way, vitamin B12 produces internally. Vitamin B-12 synthesizes the red blood cells, which is very important in proper brain functioning.

Content: Vitamin B12

  1. Definition
  2. Food Sources
  3. Functions
  4. Vitamin B12 Deficiency
  5. Dosages
  6. Side Effects
  7. Uses

Definition of Vitamin B12

Like all other vitamins, Vitamin B-12 is also soluble in water. Vitamin B-12 is mixed with water and then moved through the bloodstreams. Human body reserves useful vitamin B-12 for up to 4 years and excretes the unused vitamin B-12 through urine.

Industrially it is produced only through bacterial fermentation, and naturally present only in poultry products. There are specific properties of vitamin B-12, which are mentioned in the table given below:

Properties Vitamin B12
Alternative / Common nameCobalamin
Chemical formulaC63H88CoN14O14P
ColourDark red crystals or an amorphous or crystalline red powder
SensitivityLight sensitive
Sources of CobalaminMutton, fish, shellfish, fortified cereals, chicken, cheese, milk etc.

Food Sources

People above the age of 14 years need to take a minimum of 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 daily. Naturally, vitamin B-12 is available in meats for non-vegetarians, but vegetarians can get vitamin B-12 in fortified cereals or in a supplement form.

Sources of vitamin B12

Dietary Supplement: Cobalamin can be also produced industrially through the fermentation process by some particular microbial strains. In the year 1972, Robert Burns Woodward and Albert Eschenmoser established a complete synthetic laboratory for the synthesis of vitamin B-12 but commercially, the process did not give good potential because by completing 70 steps only 0.01% yield was achieved.

Functions of Cobalamin

The functions of Cobalamin includes:

  1. For proper functioning of the brain and nervous system, vitamin B-12 plays a crucial role.
  2. Vitamin B-12 helps in the red blood cells formation and also in creation and regulations of DNA.
  3. Cobalamin involves in the synthesis of fatty acids and also in the energy production, so in this way metabolism of the cell in the body depends on it.
  4. Vitamin B-12 helps in the absorption of folic acid and due to which dissipation of energy takes place from the human body.
  5. Vitamin B-12 helps in proper multiplication of erythrocytes. So, if the cobalamin level reduces then the production of RBC also reduces and then it finally results in anaemia.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  1. Deficiency of Vitamin B-12 causes potentially severe damage to the human brain and nervous system. It is also responsible for damage to the brain and nervous system permanently.
  2. Lack of Vitamin B-12 also related with the problems like weight loss, weak appetite and constipation.
  3. Psychosis, mania, and dementia are some of the major problems that also results due to the scarcity of vitamin B-12.
  4. Lack causes neurological changes, like tingling of body parts and due to which people face difficulty in balancing the body.
  5. Depression, memory problems, confusion and fatigue, are some of the significant health problems triggered due to the slight deficiency of Vitamin B-12 even. However, these problems also causes due to other reasons.
  6. Infants also face various issues like difficulty in feeding, irritation, face tremors etc.
  7. Anemia is also caused due to deficiency of vitamin B-12. The various symptoms observed in anemia patient are breath shortness, irregularity in heartbeat and fatigue. And even some of the other problems are as follows: weight loss, pale skin colour, problems in the menstrual cycle, diarrhoea and sore in the mouth.


As per National Institutes of Health (NIH) in US, the recommended dosages for teens and adults above 14 years needs to intake 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 per day. Pregnant lady needs to intake 2.6 micrograms and lactating women needs to take 2.8 micrograms per day.

However, excess intake of vitamin B-12 is not harmful but still people advised to take consult to physician before taking dosage. Some of the drugs may interfere with the working of vitamin B-12 and these drugs are metformin, proton pump inhibitors, and hydrogen receptor agonists etc.

Side Effects

Generally, there is very limited side effects of taking vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is not toxic even by taking 1000 micrograms per day. None of the case have been reported since 2001 of an adverse situation raised due to vitamin B-12 supplement.

Cyanocobalamin is a form of supplement which contains cyanide and Cyanocobalamin is injectable in nature. Because of presence of cyanide, it is concerned that it may be poisonous. However, this type of supplements is not recommended to kidney patients.

Uses of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 has diverse applicabilities like:

Preventing loss of Brain Neurons

Loss of Neurons present in the brain is termed as brain atrophy and associated with memory loss or dementia, is prevented by using vitamin B-12. Studies proved that early-stage dementia could be prevented by using combining vitamin B-12 with omega-3 fatty acid.

Gives Energy boost to the body

All vitamin B is involved in the production of energy, though, they themselves do not provide energy. If someone is a deficit of vitamin B-12 significantly, then by taking supplements or increasing vitamin intake may increase strength. Vitamin B-12 deficiency causes fatigue and lack of energy.

Improves Heart Health

Risk of heart diseases increases with an increase in the level of amino acid homocysteine in the blood. Elevation in homocysteine levels increases, if person is deficit in vitamin B-12. Studies showed that Vitamin B-12 reduces homocysteine levels which will reduce heart disease risk.

Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails

Vitamin B-12 is required to provide adequate vitamin level for proper growth of healthy hair, skin and nails.  Deficiency of Vitamin B-12 causes dermatology symptoms. Also vitamin causes hyperpigmentation, discoloration of nails, hair color changes vitiligo and angular stomatitis.

Helps in RBC Formation and Anemia Prevention

Deficiency in vitamin B-12 reduces Red blood cells formation and also prevents its proper development. Generally, red blood cells are rounded and smaller in shape, but in case of deficiency of vitamin B-12, they change into an oval shape and more substantial in form.

Due to these irregularities in shape and size, RBC is unable to move correctly through bone marrow and causes megaloblastic anaemia. Anaemia causes fatigue and weakness in the body.

Prevents Major Birth Defects

For the proper development of the fetus brain and nervous system, adequate supply of vitamin B-12 is required from mother. Deficiency in vitamin in pregnancy time may cause significant birth defects like neural tube defects. Also, Deficiency of vitamin B-12 in the mother may cause premature birth or miscarriage.

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