The B-12 vitamin is one of the b vitamins that are essential to maintaining a healthy body. Otherwise known as Cobalamin, the 12b vitamin is needed for the processes to convert the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins from food into energy. B-12 also, more importantly, helps keep the red blood cells healthy and therefore prevent heart disease as well as keeping the immune system functioning at its maximum level. In addition, B-12 is used to create the protective covering of all nerve cells in the body.
The most important function of B-12 is to form healthy red blood cells. However, all cells need B-12 to keep them healthy. It is the white blood cells, amongst others, that need B-12 to help ensure that the immune system functioning properly. All of the nerve cells in the body also need B-12 to form their protective fatty layer. This is essential for all of the nerves but is especially so for those in the brain. If there is not sufficient B-12 to create this protective layer then the brain will not be functioning properly.
Interestingly, the amount of B-12 that the body needs is relatively small but is needed on a regular basis. However, B-12 on its own is not enough as the body cannot absorb it easily. To help the body absorb B-12 the stomach produces intrinsic factor which enables more of the B-12 to be absorbed. B-12 is only found in animal foods such as liver, eggs, fish, and meat but most people consume far more than their recommended daily amount of B-12. This is not a problem as the body can only absorb about half of the B-12 that is consumed. It is also worth noting that the body can recycle the B-12 which cuts down on the impact of a B-12 deficiency. However, strict vegetarians or vegans are likely to require B-12 supplements if they do not eat any animal products that contain B-12.
If the body does not have enough B-12 then anemia is the most obvious symptom. Obviously, this is due to the fact that there is not enough B-12 to make healthy red blood cells. Anemia can also be caused by the body not creating enough intrinsic factor to help absorb the B-12 that is available in the food consumed. The body tends to makes less intrinsic factor once a person reaches 50 and this will lead to less B-12 being absorbed and supplements of B-12 may be required. Kids are also at risk from anemia because they may not eat the food that contains B-12. Pregnant women need more B-12 because the baby is absorbing B-12 during the pregnancy to grow properly.