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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.