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B12 is one of eight B vitamins, all of which help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which produces energy. These B vitamins, often referred to as B complex vitamins, also help the body use fats and protein. B complex vitamins are needed for healthy skin, hair, eyes, and liver. They also help the nervous system function properly. All B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that the body does not store them, and therefore considered a safe non-toxic supplement.
Vitamin B12 is an especially important vitamin for maintaining healthy nerve cells, and it helps in the production of DNA. Vitamin B12 also works closely with vitamin B9, also called folate or folic acid, to help make red blood cells and to help iron work better in the body. Folate and B12 work together to produce S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a compound involved in immune function and mood.
Megaloblastic anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency is a cause of megaloblastic anemia, in which red blood cells are larger than normal and the ratio of nucleus size to cell cytoplasm is increased. There are other potential causes of megaloblastic anemia, including folate deficiency or various inborn metabolic disorders. Pernicious anemia is a type of megaloblastic anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, and it should be treated with vitamin B12. Patients with anemia should be evaluated by a physician in order to diagnose and address the underlying cause.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Studies have shown that a deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to abnormal neurologic and psychiatric symptoms. These symptoms may include ataxia (shaky movements and unsteady gait), muscle weakness, spasticity, incontinence, hypotension (low blood pressure), vision problems, dementia, psychoses, and mood disturbances. Researchers have reported that these symptoms may occur when vitamin B12 levels are just slightly lower than normal and are considerably above the levels normally associated with anemia. People at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency include strict vegetarians, elderly people, breastfed infants, and people with increased vitamin B12 requirements associated with pregnancy, thyrotoxicosis, hemolytic anemia, hemorrhage, malignancy, or liver or kidney disease. Administering vitamin B12 orally, intramuscularly, or intranasally is effective for preventing and treating dietary vitamin B12 deficiency.
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