Vitamin B12

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Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is naturally found in food such as fish, milk and milk products, eggs, meat and poultry. Fortified breakfast cereals are another source of vitamin B12 and a valuable source for vegetarians. Vitamin B12 is important for good health, necessary for the proper digestion and absorption of foods and for normal metabolism of carbohydrates, and fat. It helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells and is needed to make DNA. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein during digestion.

Vitamin B12 was isolated from a liver extracted in 1948 and identified as the nutritional factor in liver that prevented pernicious anemia, a deadly type of anemia characterized by large, immature red blood cells. In order to absorb the small amounts of vitamin B12 found in food, the stomach secretes intrinsic factor, a special digestive secretion that increases the absorption of vitamin B12 in the small intestine. Unlike other water-soluble nutrients, vitamin B12 is stored in the liver, kidney, and other body tissues. It can take several years before signs of the deficiency appear, all because of poor dietary intake.

Vitamin B12 functions as a "methyl donor." A methyl donor is a compound that carries and donates methyl groups to other molecules, including cell membrane components and neurotransmitters. As a methyl donor vitamin B12 is involved in homocysteine metabolism and plays a critical role in proper energy metabolism, immune function, and nerve function. Therefore, vitamin B12 is clearly an added benefit for anyone wanting to lose weight, as without it, metabolism is not at its peak potential.

Dosing for vitamin B12 is dependent on the age of the individual as well as if the patient is pregnant or lactating. Vitamin B12 is necessary in only very small quantities – the RDA is two micrograms. Methylcobalamin, the active form of vitamin B12, supplied in sublingual tablets is preferred over cyanocobalamin. No one has ever reported clear toxicity from vitamin B12.

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