Vitamin B12 is used by the body for many different functions including cellular division, metabolism and in the nervous system. Vitamin B12 is obtained exclusively through meat, fish, eggs and dairy products and people on a vegan diet have a difficult time obtaining this nutrient. While all eight B-complex vitamins are water soluble, which means they cannot be stored by the body and must be consumed each day, excess amounts of Vitamin B12 can be stored in the liver for short periods of time.
Most symptoms of a Vitamin B12 deficiency manifest themselves directly related to the major function the vitamin performs. In the case of Vitamin B12, this means anemia along with fatigue and muscle weakness as a result of its function in the cellular division required to produce red blood cells. Nausea, vomiting and Diarrhea are common symptoms that occur related to Vitamin B12’s function in the digestive system while tingling and numbness are related to Vitamin B12s function related to myelin production in nerve cells.
One of the primary functions of Vitamin B12 is to regulate cellular division. Because of this function, cells that divide rapidly require large amounts of vitamin B12. One of the places cellular division takes place most rapidly is in the bone marrow where new red blood cells are created. If there is a deficiency of Vitamin B12, red blood cell counts in the blood stream will be reduced and a large percentage of the blood cells found will be prematurely formed and incapable of carrying oxygen.
Another major function of Vitamin B12 is in the formation of myelin, which is the protective sheath that surrounds nerve cells. Inadequate amounts of myelin result in symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the extremities. It is important to note that in most cases, this damage is irreversible and permanent.
Vitamin B12 is also used in fatty acid metabolism and the ‘freeing’ of energy that is stored in the body in the form of fat. In the absence of Vitamin B12, the body’s ability to burn fat is diminished. This can create a cascading effect on many different systems of the body since fatty acid and of course energy are required at many different places.
Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient whose major functions involve cellular division, nervous system protection and metabolism. Vitamin B12 is only found in meat, fish, dairy products and eggs. A deficiency of vitamin B12 will result in many different problems, most notably anemia, digestive problems, and the inability to utilize fat and fatty acids correctly.