What does vitamin b12 do for the brain, body, dna, and red blood cells

  • Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for the formation of red blood cells and DNA.
  • Without enough B12, a person can experience difficulty walking, memory loss, or TKTK
  • Vitamin B12 is not made by the body, and is found naturally in animal products only.

The eight B vitamins help the body convert food into energy, and they all play an essential role in maintaining healthy hair, nails, eyes, liver, and nervous system, according to Mount Sinai.

Vitamin B12 is a particularly important nutrient because it helps make red blood cells and DNA. Although vitamin B12 deficiency is rare in the United States, vegetarians and vegans are more likely to develop the condition, Dr. Eduardo Villamor, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, previously told Insider.

Villamor said symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency vary depending on how long a person has been without the nutrient.

Mild vitamin B12 deficiency leads to fatigue, which can sometimes be debilitating; Doctors recently diagnosed a woman in the United Kingdom who had suffered from extreme fatigue and difficulty walking for years with “dangerously low” vitamin B12 levels.

If someone is concerned about a vitamin deficiency, nutritionists and doctors tell Insider they recommend talking to a healthcare provider before starting to use supplements on their own.

Here are 4 essential roles that vitamin B12 plays in the body:

1. Vitamin B12 is essential for the formation of red blood cells

Vitamin B12 plays a particularly important role in the formation of red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout the body.

Vitamin B12 contributes to the complex process of making hemoglobin, the protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen. B12 activates the chemical “succinyl CoA” that the body eventually turns into hemoglobin.

Without B12, the body cannot produce enough hemoglobin to produce fully functional red blood cells, according to the Cleveland Clinic. A lack of healthy red blood cells due to a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia that causes pain, difficulty walking, memory loss, mood changes, and vision problems.

2. Nutrients play an important role in the formation of DNA

Vitamin B12 helps stimulate the biological processes that create DNA and RNA, according to the National Institutes of Health.

According to the National Institutes of Health, people who are deficient in B12 make DNA slowly. Because DNA is the building block of all cells, people who don’t have enough vitamin B12 can develop megaloblastic anemia, when the body produces large, abnormal red blood cells.

The National Organization for Rare Disorders states that people with megaloblastic anemia can develop neurological symptoms including:

  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
  • balance problems
  • vision loss
  • confusion
  • depression
  • panic attacks

3. Vitamin B12 maintains nerve health and safety

According to the Society for Cognitive Neuroscience, B12, B1, and B6 are known as “neurotropic” B vitamins because they play a role in maintaining the health of the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Vitamin B12 helps form myelin, which is the protective sheath wrapped around nerves. Myelin sheaths allow nerves to send electrical impulses to other nerves quickly and efficiently, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The central nervous system said the nutrient also plays an important role in creating new nerves and repairing nerves after injury. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to a “massive health problem,” manifested in the collapse of the spinal cord in the brain, nerve damage outside the brain, and impaired cognitive function.

4. Too little vitamin B12 can weaken bones

Low levels of vitamin B12 have been linked to osteoporosis, or weak bones. A 2015 review found that a vitamin B12 deficiency may trigger the body to make “osteoclasts,” or the cells that break down bone.

However, too much vitamin B12 can also damage your bones. A study of 75,000 postmenopausal women found that those taking supplements far exceeding the recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 were more likely to have a hip fracture.

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