Vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread. The reasons vary, but often this has something to do with the way we live and what we eat. Our bodies are constantly exposed to pollutants and pesticides, as well as the genetic modifications added to the animal foods we consume. Since the compound is only present in animal-based foods, the task of having a high enough supply of vitamin B12 is especially difficult for vegans and vegetarians.
Also known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin we need for many bodily functions. It is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital part in our body’s DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, energy production, and neurological function. In the absence of sufficient absorption of vitamin B12, our body will start manifesting several deficiency symptoms, such as:
Despite playing a vital role in our health, our body can’t produce vitamin B12 on its own. Vitamin B12 is usually present in animal products, especially dairy products, poultry, eggs, and fish. We can also access it from fortified foods, such as cereals, but foods rich in vitamin B12 may not always do their job properly. That’s because there are people who may struggle to absorb it despite their efforts to consume only healthy foods.
During digestion, vitamin B12 is removed from protein and sent into the bloodstream. For our body to properly absorb it, the stomach needs to have sufficient acid to perform the removal, a process that is not always completed successfully due to the lack of something called the intrinsic factor. People who have problems absorbing vitamin B12 may eventually suffer from pernicious anemia.
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms per day, but not many of us manage to rise to the challenge. Besides people who have an absorption problem, some individuals prefer a plant-based diet and thus can’t access B12 from food. Elderly people may also have vitamin B12 absorption problems, as will people with celiac disease or Crohn’s disease.