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Vitamin B12 – the essential roles

Wednesday April 13, 2022
Vitamin B12 – the essential roles

If vitamin B12 has not been on your radar, then this blog will acquaint you with this vital vitamin and show how it supports vital functions within your body. Read on to find out more.

Vitamin B12 belongs to the B vitamin family, a large group of water-soluble vitamins. Although each B vitamin plays a slightly different role in the body they are known to interact and work synergistically.

Also known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 can be a result of fermentation and is found in animal derived foods. Surprisingly, even though the minimum recommended intake is a very small amount, vitamin B12 has quite a number of important functions in the body.

Brain health

It is essential for brain health; in fact, it is suggested that in the elderly a suboptimal vitamin B12 intake may result in symptoms like mild cognitive impairment and depression. Which could be a result of poor digestion and a loss of appetite.

Healthy nerve function

Messages travel throughout the body to the brain via a network of nerves, and vitamin B12 supports the myelination of nerves which is the insulating layer that surrounds and protects the nerves. Suboptimal B12 intake may explain a loss of sensation, weakness in the lower extremities or ongoing pain.

Cardiovascular function

Heart health is driven by minimising the level of homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine can increase the risk of heart disease. Homocysteine is an aggressive amino acid that is a result of a process called methylation. The aggressive molecule is removed by vitamin B12 in combination with folate and B6. Subsequently, it is considered that vitamin B12 is essential for heart health however, this process also produces new cells, repairs DNA and plays a role in detoxification.

Red blood cell formation

Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, and they require vitamin B12 to regulate the size and shape. Without enough B12 they will not divide and become too large to pass out of the bone marrow. Subsequently B12 deficiency causes the overly large blood cells that cannot travel to the blood to carry oxygen, this is pernicious anaemia, which results in feelings of fatigue, affects cognition besides organ damage and if not addressed is fatal.

How much vitamin B12?

Public Health England recommends a minimum daily intake of 1.5 micrograms for adults in the UK. Adding vitamin B12 rich foods to your daily meals will support your intake of the nutrient. Among the vitamin B12 rich foods are eggs, milk, yogurt, salmon, poultry and fortified foods such as nutritional yeasts and cereals. Where dietary sources may be inappropriate, eg due to lifestyle choices, consider supplementation to fill nutritional gaps. Choose quality supplements containing 100% active ingredients, with no binders or fillers and always check the label.

For advice on your personal requirements or support with lifestyle modifications, visit your independent health stores at




Castelli MC, Friedman K, Sherry J, Brazzillo K, Genoble L, Bhargava P, Riley MG. Comparing the efficacy and tolerability of a new daily oral vitamin B12 formulation and intermittent intramuscular vitamin B12 in normalizing low cobalamin levels: a randomized, open-label, parallel-group study. Clin Ther. 2011 Mar;33(3):358-371.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2011.03.003.

Sharabi A, Cohen E, Sulkes J, Garty M. Replacement therapy for vitamin B12 deficiency: comparison between the sublingual and oral route. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2003 Dec;56(6):635-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2125.2003.01907.x.

Walker JG, Batterham PJ, Mackinnon AJ, Jorm AF, Hickie I, Fenech M, Kljakovic M, Crisp D, Christensen H. Oral folic acid and vitamin B-12 supplementation to prevent cognitive decline in community-dwelling older adults with depressive symptoms--the Beyond Ageing Project: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jan;95(1):194-203. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.007799. Epub 2011 Dec 14.

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a health practitioner. Please consult a qualified health practitioner if you have a pre-existing health condition or are currently taking medication. Food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet.


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