Vitamin B12 Sources And Functions: Health Benefits Of Cobalamin

Vitamin B12 also referred to as cobalamin (as it contains cobalt) is an integral part of the B complex vitamin group. The function of this is to ensure normal metabolism and is responsible for reproduction of body cells along with folic acid.

Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can have serious impact on the body. Its deficiency can lead to anemia, tiredness, manic depression while chronic deficiency can have devastating irreversible damage to central nervous system, gastrointestinal system leading to chronic diarrhea etc.

Natural Sources Of Cobalamin Or Vitamin 12

Vitamin B12 is unique amongst vitamins as it is mostly found in foods of animal origin. Meat, liver, eggs, shrimps, and dairy products are valuable sources of this vitamin. Vegetarians are therefore advised to increase their intake of milk or take vitamin B12 in a tablet form as a supplement.

Although vitamin B12 is synthesized in the large intestine, it is not absorbed to its optimum requirement needed by the body, especially when there is a deficiency of this vitamin. It is the only vitamin which is not found in plant and fruit sources. Therefore for vegans, it has to be supplemented from other sources that are available naturally. Below are few important sources aside from milk.

  • Cheese: Cheese is a milk product that contains considerable amount of cobalamin. The amount may depend on the type of cheese. For example, Swiss cheese contains the highest which is 3.35 micrograms of 100 g serving while Mozzarella, Feta contain lesser amount.
  • Whey powder: It is a good source of vitamin B12. It is commonly added to smoothies and bread. 100 gm of whey powder contains 3 micrograms of cobalamin.
  • Eggs: Cobalamin is concentrated in yellow portion of egg. The eggs of duck and goose provide more amount of vitamin B12 than chicken eggs.
  • Yeast extract which is used as a spread on bread in many parts of world has enough amount of vitamin B12.

Animal sources contain plenty of vitamin B12 as compared to plant sources.

  • Liver: Animal liver is rich source of vitamin B12. 100 gm of it contains approximately 85 micrograms of cobalamin.
  • Fish and sea foods: If there is deficiency of cobalamin, then you can rely on fish and other sea foods for vitamin B12.
  • Beef meat is another good source of dietary vitamin B12.

 Does Boiling Milk Destroy Vitamin B12 Content?

There are limited sources of unfortified Vitamin B12 for vegetarians. Milk and Dairy products act as the only good source of among vegetarians.

Milk has to be pasteurized (i.e. boiled at a fixed temperature) to kill the microorganisms and bacteria that are present in milk and make it appropriate for human consumption. However, the process of pasteurization destroys a considerable amount of Vitamin B12.

Raw milk contains Vitamin B12 to the tune of 1.2 micrograms per 100 ml while pasteurized milk contains only about 0.3 to 0.4 micrograms per 100 ml. As per the health authorities, the ideal daily intake of Vitamin B12 is about 2.4 micrograms for a healthy adult.

This mandates that one consumes about three fourth liter of boiled milk each day to meet this requirement. Also the process of fermentation to prepare yoghurt tends to destroy most of the Vitamin B12 in milk.

Functions Of Vitamin B12 Or Cyanocobalamin

  • Cyanocobalamin is vital for producing and regenerating red blood cells.
  • Vitamin B12 is needed for optimum functioning of central nervous system. It helps to improve concentration and memory.
  • It is necessary for proper utilization of fats, carbohydrates and proteins for body building.
  • Vitamin B12 increases appetite and promotes growth among children.
  • It is also involved in various metabolic and enzymatic processes, which includes folic acid metabolism.
  • Sufficient quantity of cyanocobalamin and folic acid is necessary to mature immune cells, made in the bone marrow into active disease-fighters.

Health Benefits Of Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin

Adequate amount of vitamin B12 from food can reduce the risk of suffering from many health issues.

  • Alzheimer’s disease: Research has suggested that people who have chronic deficiency of cobalamin are at greater risk of suffering from Alzheimer’s diseases.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency along with folate deficiency leads to anemia and fatigue. Adequate level of vitamin B12 is necessary for maintaining energy.
  • Necessary for a healthy heart: In association with B6 and folate, cobalamin is useful for lowering homocysteine.  It is a type of protein which damages the walls of coronary arteries when found in excess. Thus cobalamin is necessary to prevent heart attacks.
  • Lack of cobalamin can lead to memory loss.