Vitamin B12: 4 Health Benefits, 4 Symptoms Of Deficiency, And 4 Foods To Eat

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that’s involved with a lot of important processes in the human body. Vitamin B12 is structurally the largest and most complex of all the vitamins known to man.

1. Prevents Nerve Damage


Your nerves have a protective covering to keep them safe from toxins and free radicals in your blood. Without these coverings, called myelin sheaths, exposed nerves get damaged and may even die. These dead nerves disrupt signals to and from the brain and may play a role in nerve-related conditions. Vitamin B12 supports the way your body replenishes this protective covering.

2. Protects The Heart


Vitamin B12 benefits cardiovascular health in several ways, which is important considering the fact that heart disease is currently the number one cause of death worldwide. Vitamin B12 helps to reduce elevated homocysteine levels, which is now considered a major risk factor for heart disease. Homocysteine is an amino acid and its levels in the blood are influenced by blood levels of B-complex vitamins, including vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 helps to protect against heart disease like a heart attack or stroke by lowering high homocysteine levels in the blood.

3. Supports Energy


Vitamin B12 plays a key role in how your body creates energy. It keeps your cells fed, happy, and healthy. Without it, your cells get hungry and you feel weak, tired, and like you’re dragging all the time. Vitamin B12 benefits your metabolism because it’s needed to convert carbohydrates into useable glucose in the body. Glucose from carbohydrate foods is used as a form of energy, so this is the reason why people with vitamin B12 deficiencies often experience fatigue. Vitamin B12 is also needed for neurotransmitter signaling that helps your muscles contract and gives you the energy to go about your day without feeling tired and run down.

4. Your Bones Need It


Osteoporosis is defined as having fragile, weak or brittle bones as a result of tissue loss. It’s roughly four times more common in women than men. Patients with osteoporosis have higher levels of homocysteine and low levels of B12 than people with strong, healthy bones. If you suffer from osteoporosis or similar bone issues, speak to your doctor about getting your vitamin B12 levels tested.

Symptoms Of A Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be slow to develop, causing symptoms to appear gradually and intensify over time. It can also come on relatively quickly. Symptoms include:

1. Strange Sensations, Numbness


It feels like electricity is running from your head to your feet. A number of sufferers report numbness and a “pins and needles” sensation. These weird pains are all a result of nerve damage, which is triggered by low oxygen levels in cells.

2. Anemia


B12 deficiency means that your body does not have enough of this vitamin. You need B12 to make red blood cells , which carry oxygen through your body. Not having enough B12 can lead to anemia, which means your body does not have enough red blood cells to do the job. This can make you feel weak and tired. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause damage to your nerves and can affect memory and thinking.

3. A swollen, Inflamed Tongue


About half of people with a severe B12 deficiency lose the papillae—those little bumps—on their tongues, especially around the edges. Patients also complain of burning and soreness, particularly on the back of the tongue. And since most of those papillae contain taste buds, if you lose a lot of them even your favorite foods are going to taste blah. Women with a B12 deficiency may actually lose weight because food doesn’t taste as good to them anymore.

4. Fatigue


Fatigue is one of the first signs of B12 deficiency. Your body relies on the vitamin to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your organs. And without enough oxygen in your cells, you’ll feel tired no matter how long you sleep. Fatigue can mean a number of things, though, so you can’t assume you’re B12 deficient if feeling sleepy is your only complaint—doctors usually are tipped off if you’ve got fatigue plus other symptoms.

Rich Sources Of Vitamin B12 Foods

The majority of food sources for vitamin B12 are available from animal sources only. Keep in mind that the majority of these B12 foods, despite their high levels of the nutrient, contain their own concerns. This is particularly true if the animal is raised in a conventional feedlot environment.

1. Clams


Clams take the top prize for providing the most iron. Three ounces of the shellfish provide 23.8 milligrams of iron and 126 calories. Clams are a top source of potassium and vitamin B12.

2. Beef


Beef is another great source of vitamin B12 and vitamin A. Be sure to pick up the leaner beef in the grocery store and you’re off to a healthy start.

3. Eggs


Eggs are a great source of B12 for vegetarians, as they can easily be added to salads, top soups and stir frys, or step in for dinner. Plus, they’re super-cheap!

4. Turkey


Heritage turkeys are full of flavor and also deliver 48.2 milligrams of vitamin B12 per cup of meat.

Sources Of B12 For Vegans And Vegetarians

Getting vitamin B12 is not a difficult task for non-vegetarians but it isn’t the same for vegans or vegetarians. While most vegans do consume enough vitamin B12 to avoid anemia, it isn’t enough to reduce the risk of heart issues in the future.1 You could either include fortified cereal, plant-based milk, and rice into your diet or take vitamin B12 supplements. But make sure to include it in your diet. There are some claims that seaweed, fermented soy products like tempeh and miso, and yeast can be a good source of vitamin B12 but there’s not enough research to back this up.