Vitamin B12 – functions in the body

Vitamin B12, or coblamine, is a water-soluble vitamin with a very complex structure. It has a ring system bound to the cobalt atom. Cobalamin is essential for many body processes, including the formation of white and red blood cells, the synthesis of DNA, ammonium acids, and marrow proteins. It plays an important role in the transformation of carbohydrates and fats. It is necessary for the proper functioning of the digestive and nervous systems.

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Vitamin B12 – what is it found in?

Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products. Its main sources are offal, meat, milk and its products, and egg yolks. It is synthesized in small amounts by the bacterial flora of the digestive tract. The body can store vitamin B12, its body stores last for 3-6 years, so only after this time, in the case of insufficient supply, symptoms of deficiency can be observed.
Vitamin B12 – deficiency diagnosis

Vitamin B12 deficiency in studies was manifested, among others, by the occurrence of megaloblastic anemia. Laboratory tests show an increase in the volume of red blood cells (MCV) above 100 fl. Additionally, a decrease in hemoglobin (Hb), hematocrit and the amount of red blood cells can be observed. Occasionally there is leukopenia with granulocytopenia, thrombocytopenia and a decrease in the number of reticulocytes. To assess whether a deficiency is present, it is sufficient to perform a serum vitamin B12 test.

Vitamin B12 – deficiency symptoms

Too low levels of vitamin B12 may occur in people who are on a vegan diet, are abusing alcohol, have transcobalamin II deficiency, have abnormalities related to Castle factor (e.g. Addison-Biermer disease, congenital external factor deficiency) and in the course of diseases with coexisting disorders absorption, e.g. removal of a part of the intestine, inflammatory bowel disease, removal of a part of the stomach, chronic pancreatitis. It can also be caused by incomplete use of cobalamin (simultaneous use of drugs, e.g. neomycin), accelerated wear (multiple myeloma, myeloproliferative diseases, tapeworms). However, the most commonly reported cause is Addison-Biermer disease (gastritis atrophic).

In the case of vitamin B12 deficiency, there are haematological, gastroenterological and neurological symptoms. In addition to the typical symptoms of anemia, such as weakness, impaired concentration, headaches and dizziness, shortness of breath, palpitations, and pale skin and mucous membranes, there are symptoms specific to cobalamin deficiency. The skin is straw yellow in color, there are gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea, and sometimes loss of appetite. Patients may report burning and pain in the tongue that worsens after eating spicy or acidic foods. The tongue is smooth, bright red and the nodules may disappear, resulting in a loss of flavor. The group of neurological symptoms is very wide. Long-lasting cobalamin deficiency may cause degeneration in the peripheral and central nervous system as a result of disturbances in the synthesis of choline, which is part of the phospholipids that build the myelin sheaths of nerves. There are tingling in the limbs, disturbances in the sense of vibration and position, unsteady gait, and numbness in the limbs. In addition, some people may experience changes in behavior – irritability, memory impairment, dementia.

In the event of a vitamin B12 deficiency, see a doctor to determine the cause and adjust the treatment plan.

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