We’ve already talked a lot about the benefits of vitamin B12 supplementation to those suffering from a B12 deficiency. But what does B12 do for your body in first place? Why is B12 good for you and why is it so crucial?
Let’s dig into how vitamin B12 benefits you.
What Does Vitamin B12 Do to Our Body?
The health benefits of B12 to our system are huge. It is involved in:
- Formation of myelin, a fatty protective layer insulating your nerves. B12 is essential for the synthesis and repair of this sheath, which is wrapped around each and every nerve fiber in our body. Without B12, the myelin is gradually stripped off and nerves can’t transmit impulses and electrical signals properly. That’s how B12 deficient people get major nerve damage and strange sensations, sometimes ending up on a wheelchair. Think of your nerve system as a massive tangle of wires. Myelin insulates those wires so that they can conduct messages properly.
- Reducing homocysteine, an amino acid that — when high enough — is often associated with heart disease, cancer and most other modern diseases. Without vitamin B12, homocysteine can’t be converted into the form the body needs, so it starts accumulating in the blood.
- Replication of DNA. Using methylcobalamin — one of the two true B12 forms — the enzyme methionine synthase actually converts homocysteine into methionine for the purposes of DNA methylation. When you don’t have enough B12, your bone marrow won’t be able to make all the DNA that it needs for the production of white blood cells (cells that kill germs by launching immune responses against them), putting you at risk of developing infections.
- Cell and tissue growth. Cells characterized by rapid division (such as epithelial or myeloid cells, or bone marrow) appear to have the greatest need for B12, because each new cell needs its own DNA, which, as we just said, B12 helps synthesizing.
- Hormonal efficiency. Each and every cell in our body has a membrane, and it needs to be healthy so that hormones can enter to produce the effects they’re supposed to produce. That’s because those cell membranes have special receptors on them that allow our hormones to get in. Without B12’s stabilizing effect on the membranes, your hormones will just float around in your bloodstream until excreted.
- Production of red blood cells. Folate is needed for the synthesis of red blood cells (the tiny disc-shaped cells that deliver oxygen to every corner of your body), but vitamin B12 is required for a reaction that converts folate into a form the body can use to make those red blood cells. Without it, the body can’t access folate, and you get anemic. And when oxygen delivery is low, you become fatigued even with the slightest of effort.
- Proper metabolism. One of the pure forms of B12, adenosylcobalamin (also 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin), is needed to convert L-methylmalonyl-CoA to citric acid cycle intermediate, succinyl-CoA, as part of metabolizing proteins and fats to extract energy from them.
- Preventing auto-immune diseases. When your immune system falsely recognizes parts of your own body as foreign, it launches vicious immune attacks on them. Normally, there are ‘markers’ attached to your cell membranes, telling your body it shouldn’t attacking them. But when B12 is lacking, those membranes may become unstable, which may jeopardize your immune system into attacking your own body.
How Do I Get Those Vitamin B12 Benefits?
Vitamin B12 is actually produced by the gut bacteria of animals that feed on the cobalt of the soil (that’s why B12’s name is cobalamin). Cows get it from devouring grass. We get it from devouring cows. It is the delicate cycle of life provided by Mother Nature. There is no life without death.
And so, to get the benefits of B12, all you’ll have to do is include vitamin B12 rich foods in your diet. Have a food-bound cobalamin malabsorption? You’ll have to supplement. If you can’t digest B12 at all through your stomach (pernicious anemia), you’ll need B12 injections for life. Any excess of B12 is excreted in the urine, so there’s no risk of B12 overdose.
Go get some steak and enjoy the benefits of vitamin B12.
This article is part of a larger guide: Vitamin B12.