Vitamin B12 is essential for the proper development of our red blood cells and nervous system and a Vitamin B12 deficiency (or even just low levels of vitamin B12) can result in a blood pernicious anemia which is a blood disorder than can cause permanent and severe brain damage. Also, high vitamin B12 levels in elderly persons has been shown to protect against brain shrinkage which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Vitamin B12 is known as a complex vitamin for a reason – it’s not easy for the human body to separate the complex B vitamins from their food sources so that they can be absorbed through the intestines. For this reason vitamin B12 deficiency & low levels of vitamin B12 have been shown to affect nearly half of all people.
Vitamin B12 needs to be freed from the proteins in food before it can be absorbed by the body. This takes place in both the stomach and small intestine with gastric acid. Once the B12 is released from the proteins in food, the body secretes a protein in the stomach that allows for the absorption of vitamin B12. People with pernicious anemia are not able to secrete this protein in their stomach thus drastically inhibiting their ability to absorb B12. Because of the body’s difficulty in absorbing B12 through the stomach, vitamin B12 injections are used to deliver the vitamin directly into the patient’s bloodstream, therefore bypassing the stomach and resulting in much more efficient absorption. This is the only way B12 can be absorbed by people with pernicious anemia but its a very effective method for anyone with a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Aside from maintaining healthy red blood cells and nervous system, vitamin B12 is needed in order for our bodies to absorb folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) which helps release energy. Vitamin B12 normally plays a significant role in the metabolism of every cell of the body allowing for energy production which is why taking vitamin B12 for energy is so popular.
People especially at risk for Vitamin B12 Deficiency include older adults, people with Pernicious Anemia and Vegans and Vegetarians. Elderly people with a condition known as Atrophic Gastritis are especially at risk and this condition affects 30-50% of adults over age 50. Also, people with Pernicious Anemia can’t produce the enzyme that allows for vitamin B12 absorption in the intestines. Although Pernicious Anemia affects less than 2% of the adult population, it can be deadly and can only be treated with vitamin B12 injections or shots.
Aside from people who have actual Vitamin B12 deficiencies, there are a number of known benefits for healthy adults that take excess Vitamin B12. Everyone knows that B12 is a great energy booster and the best part is that virtually anyone can benefit from taking extra vitamin B12 supplements. And because Vitamin B12 is water soluble, there are virtually no side effects of taking too much. It simply leaves the body as urine. With recent studies showing the surprising prevalence of low vitamin B12 levels among adults, it’s not surprising that more people are taking Vitamin b12 supplements.