What is vitamin B12 and which processes require B12?

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin the body is unable to produce itself.  B12 is an essential co-factor in methylation processes (transition processes) in cells, transitioning folate, e.g. This process is of major importance in the production of, among other things, DNA and blood corpuscles and an adequately functioning nervous system. In short, B12 plays an important part in everything connected to cell metabolism on the whole.

Therefore, B12 deficiency has a great impact on multiple systems, with sometimes serious clinical consequences. It also causes the large variety of symptoms of B12 deficiency.

To put it simply:  making an engine run requires several substances. When one of those substances is lacking, the engine will stall.

How does it work?

Because of its molecular structure, the way the body absorbs and transports vitamin B12 is more complicated than is the case with other vitamins.  

Here is a picture of the absorption process:


Vitamin B12 absorption process  in the body and the cells.

Where can it be found?

The body is unable to produce vitamin B12 itself, so it needs to be supplied. Vitamin B12 can only be found in animal products such as meat, fish, milk, butter, cheese and eggs. That is the reason why people with a low or no intake of animal products, as e.g. vegetarians (low risk) and vegans (high risk) run the risk of B12 deficiency. For this category of people B12 intake is of major importance, but there is a risk: cyanocobalamin has a smaller biological availability in the cell than hydroxocobalamin. As a result, taking cyanocobalamin may lead to a deficiency at a cellular level, which cannot be measured. By taking cyanocobalamin,  blood tests will show sub-standard to standard  B12 values (Greibe, 2018). 

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