Note: Each week, family physician Regina Chinsio-Kwong, DO from Mission Heritage Medical Group in Laguna Niguel will offer insight on a different vitamin—why you need it, how to incorporate it into your diet and how it affects your health. If you are considering taking any kind of supplement, consult with a medical professional first.
WHAT IT DOES: B12, one of eight B vitamins, can put pep in your step. It helps with metabolism, or how your body creates and uses energy. It also boosts the production of red blood cells; that can guard against anemia, which can cause weakness or fatigue. B12 can also ensure optimal body function by maintaining the central nervous system and helping with DNA production, which helps the body's cells work properly.
RECOMMENDED DAILY ALLOWANCE: The amount ranges from 0.4 micrograms for newborns to 6 month olds, to 2.4 mcg for adults older than 18. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should have 2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg, respectively.
HOW TO INCLUDE IT IN YOUR DIET: Generally, food is the best way to get enough B12, and the best food sources are lean meats or organ meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. Foods such as cereal and bread that are B12 fortified are also good options. B12 can also be found in multivitamins or on its own in supplements that can be swallowed in pill form or dissolved under the tongue. People who are vitamin B12 deficient—usually because they can't absorb the vitamin in their stomachs—can take a supplement, or prescription shots or nasal gel.
HEALTH IMPACT: A B12 deficiency can cause several problems, including anemia, weakness and fatigue, constipation, confusion and poor memory, balance problems and nerve damage. Babies can suffer developmental delays. Those at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include people with can't properly absorb it—such as older people or those who have had gastrointestinal surgery or disorders, such as celiac disease—as well as vegans and vegetarians, because B12 is naturally found in food products sourced from animals.
Some have thought B12 can help with heart disease, dementia and athletic performance, but medical studies have not conclusively shown that. It can also interfere with certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, which are used for reflux or heartburn, and the diabetes drug metformin. Patients on medication should always be monitored by their doctor when taking B12.
RECOMMENDED SUPPLEMENT BRANDS: Metagenics, Integrated Therapeutics.
Read more about vitamins: Value of Vitamin Series: D3