Top 5 facts about Vitamin B-12 (Cobalamin)

Our third class covered the essential vitamins, here is some important information about Vitamins B12.

Top 5 facts about Vitamin B-12:

  1. Vitamin B-12 is soluble in water; our body has the ability to store it, so any deficiency may take years to develop.
  2. The human body is unable to produce this vitamin and therefore we must get it from our diet. It has a very complicated chemical structure and it requires a particular fermentation synthesis in order for it to be produced industrially.
  3. Cobalamin (B12) has another name, “the red vitamin”, as it plays an important role in producing normal red blood cells.
  4. Although we need to obtain this vitamin from our diet our body does not require huge quantities of it, it is measured in micrograms (not in milligrams like other vitamins), which is a thousand times smaller. Our daily requirement is 10-20 mcg.
  5. Normal stomach acid levels are crucial for an efficient digestion and absorption of B12; therefore if acid levels in the stomach are weak, the absorption is not good.

What are sources of B12? 

  • As mentioned above, this vitamin is found in significant amounts only in animal protein foods since it is made by good bacteria in the intestines of animals and stored in their fat tissues. Examples of animal foods containing B12 are: meat, fish, crab, scallops, shrimp, oysters, egg yolks and live culture yogurt.
  • Some fermented foods may contain small amounts of this vitamin, depending on the method of fermentation; for example Tempeh, Spirulina, Seaweeds and fermented soy beans products (tofu, miso, etc).

How does B12 behaves in our body?

  • It is essential for the metabolism of the nerve tissue and necessary for the health of the entire nervous system, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation.
  • It was found to stimulates growth and increases appetite in children.
  • B-12, along with iron, folic acid, copper, protein and vitamins C and B6, is needed for the formation of normal red blood cells.
  • This is also the energy vitamin as it often increases the energy level. B-12 injections have been a common practice of many doctors for the treatment of fatigue. Also called the longevity vitamin.

What happens if you are B12 deficient?

  • In 1926 B-12 vitamin was used in an injection form to treat a fatal disease called “pernicious anemia” (when this vitamin is deficient the cells become oversized and poorly shaped), however it did not cure all of the people with this disease. Later on it was discovered that an enzyme produced by the stomach was also needed for the B-12 to be absorbed into the body from the intestines. This enzyme has been termed the intrinsic factor, while vitamin B-12 is the extrinsic factor. Research shows that deficiency of B-12 is actually deficiency of that intrinsic factor which may be caused by aging, stress and stomach problems that weaken body’s ability to produce the enzyme.
  • Vegan individuals must take supplements of this essential vitamin as they are not getting it from their diet.
  • B-12 deficiency is more common as we age.


  • In general, digestion and absorption must be good for adequate B-12 to be obtained.
  • Most of B12 in our body is concentrated in the liver, heart, pancreas, testes, blood and bone marrow – all active metabolic tissues.
  • Deficiency of this vitamin can be a result of 3 things: either a person is not getting it from diet (vegan), poor absorption (weak stomach acid production) or from deficient production of the intrinsic factor.