Vitamin B12 is one of the eight vitamins that make up the B-complex of vitamins. It is an important factor in building and maintaining a healthy central nervous system, including the brain. Vitamin B12 is also critical in the formation of red blood cells, which are used in virtually every part of the body.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is required for the healthy functioning of many of the body's vital processes. Meat, fish, fortified cereals, and dairy products are all good food sources of Vitamin B12, and it can also be synthesized in laboratories. In supplement form, Vitamin B12 is often combined with other B vitamins in the B-Vitamin class.
The origins of the discovery of Vitamin B12 and its properties date back to studies of an autoimmune disease called pernicious anemia, which causes a deficiency in Vitamin B12. According to studies conducted since then, Vitamin B12 deficiencies have been linked with many other conditions and diseases, some of them with permanent harmful effects.
Luckily, the body can store up to a few years worth of Vitamin B12 in the liver, so extreme deficiencies are very rare. People who follow a strict vegan diet (consuming no animal products of any kind, including eggs and dairy) are more likely to have a deficiency in Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Benefits
Recent research in the benefits of Vitamin B12 has identified it as being helpful in protecting against loss of volume of the brain due to aging. Healthy older people were studied yearly to compare their Vitamin B12 levels with the amount of brain shrinkage they experienced; researchers discovered that participants with higher levels of Vitamin B12 were six times less likely to have experienced shrinkage of the brain, as compared to other participants with lower Vitamin B12 levels.
Other benefits of Vitamin B12 include:
- Maintaining the development and functioning of the central nervous system;
- Preventing irreversible neurological damage due to anemia;
- Helping to boost memory and brain power;
- Preventing and treating the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease;
- Raising mood levels;
- Reducing homocysteine levels, which helps to prevent heart disease;
- Preventing fatigue and general weakness of the body;
- Resolving sleep disorders;
- Promoting healthy metabolism and digestive system functions.
Vitamin B12 Side Effects
When used in amounts not exceeding the recommended dietary allowance, Vitamin B12 is very safe and few, if any, side effects are reported. In rare cases, individuals have reported mild gastrointestinal distress and skin rashes. To avoid upset stomach, take Vitamin B12 with food.
How does Vitamin B12 help brain function?
Vitamin B12 serves vital functions in every cell of the body, including those of the brain. Its roles include promoting healthy cell metabolism, enhancing DNA synthesis, and regulating fatty acids and the production of energy. While Vitamin B12 deficiencies are fairly unusual, low levels of Vitamin B12 have been associated with a number of conditions and diseases, including memory problems, lower levels of concentration, fatigue, loss of energy, and actual shrinkage of brain mass.
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