VITAMINS & MINERALS MARKERS
Vitamin B12 is part of the B complex of vitamins alongside vitamin B9 or folate. They are essential vitamins, so the body is unable to make them itself and so instead must take them in through the diet. Vitamin B12 is required for the formation of red blood cells as well as for forming a coat around nerve cells called myelin. Vitamin B12 plays a key role in several physiological functions. It is needed for the maturation of red blood cells, if it is not present then this can lead to pernicious anaemia which can have neurological side effects. Vitamin B12 is also required for cell metabolism and function, so deficiency can have detrimental effects on the body’s organ systems. Deficiency can be subtle and non-specific which can make diagnosis difficult. The body can store vitamin B12 which means deficiency may occur over a prolonged period. The body can store up to 5mg of vitamin B12 and as the UK government recommends a daily intake of 1.5 micrograms per day, depleting these stores can take several years.
How does Vitamin B12 affect my Wellbeing?
Vitamin B12 can only be derived from animal sources such as meat, fish and dairy. Therefore, deficiency can be common amongst the vegan and/or vegetarian community. It can also be present in pregnant women as their requirements will increase. Older people are also susceptible possibly due to poor nutrition. Some of the symptoms of B12 deficiency include: fatigue, anaemia, neurological features, sore tongue, bone marrow suppression, cardiomyopathy.
Usually, folate is also analysed alongside vitamin B12 as these can both be markers for macrocytic anaemias (where red cells are larger than they should be and have a reduced oxygen-carrying capacity). They can also both be used to look at nutritional status especially if malnutrition is suspected. Both B vitamins are needed for adequate red cell development, cell repair and DNA synthesis.
High levels of vitamin B12 are not usually observed but may be seen with leukaemia or liver dysfunction.