Vitamin B12 is a member of the vitamin B family. Vitamin B12 is also known as Cobalamin and is exclusively synthesized by bacteria found primarily in meat, eggs and dairy products. There has been considerable concern and research for individuals who practice a strictly vegan diet and don’t eat eggs or cheese.
Vitamin B12 is needed for cell division and blood formation. Animals get their B12 from eating foods that are contaminated with bacteria that produce the vitamin and they then become a source of the vitamin. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 except when they are contaminated by microorganisms or have the vitamin added to them. Although the recommendations are very small a deficiency is a serious health problem that leads ultimately to anemia and ear reversible nerve damage.
Other signs of deficiency can also include anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss. Long-term effects can include neurological changes which include numbness and tingling in the hands and feet as well as difficulty maintaining balance, depression, confusion, poor memory and soreness in the mouth or tongue. All of these symptoms are also symptoms of other ailments so it is important for individuals who believe they may be deficient in vitamin B12 or who may be suffering from these symptoms to seek the advice of their primary care physician.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also boost blood levels of homocysteine which is an amino acid implicated in heart disease and stroke. Studies have suggested that high levels can promote blockages in arteries over time and possibly lead to heart disease and stroke. Unlike other be vitamins this one is not found in any plant food other than fortified cereals.
Interestingly researchers also found that even young healthy vitamin taking meat eating individuals may not be getting enough vitamin D 12 according to Tufts University nutritionist K. Tucker, PhD. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition she found that almost 40% of 3000 adults under the age of 50 had blood levels low enough to cause problems. There were very few vegetarians in this study and many individuals were also taking vitamin supplements.
The good news is that it is virtually impossible to consume too much vitamin B12 because it has a very low potential for toxicity. There is a blood tests which is the best way to test for deficiency and researchers recommend that all vegetarians get tested at least every year in order to track their absorption of the vitamin in their body.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians may get reliable sources of vitamin B12 from theory products and eggs which supply a substantial amount. For example, 1 cup of melt contains 0.9 micro-grams and 8 ounces of yogurt has 1.5 mcg. Fermented soy products such as tempeh an algae have practically no vitamin B12. While they may be sold his excellent sources there are widely used by the macrobiotic community, they can sing little if any active B12. Instead, they have analogs of B12 that are not active and may actually block the absorption of the true vitamin.
The president recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B12 is to micrograms per day for adults and teenagers and approximately 2.5 mcg for women who are pregnant and breast-feeding. The vitamin B12 should be consumed from a variety of foods such as low-fat milk and yogurt or fortified cereals.
Researchers have found that the body is able to store enough to B12 to last approximately 2 years but once the supply has run out the consequences can be very severe. Those who are at particular high risk are breast-fed babies a vegetarian mothers and the elderly. Although the rest feeding mother may be able to rely on her is stored vitamin B12 it will not be present in the mail for babies.
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