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Vitamins and Minerals

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Vitamin B12 and your health

Vitamin B12 is known as the feel good vitamin because of its role in the healthy functioning of the nervous system. It was discovered in the 1940’s that vitamin B12 prevents pernicious anemia, a type of anemia in which the body does not have a sufficient number of red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is present within red blood cells and is important for carrying oxygen to all tissues of the body.

True pernicious anemia is the result of the body’s inability to absorb vitamin B12, which ultimately results in the vitamin B12 deficiency. Because the body has large stores of vitamin B12, the deficiency takes many years to develop.

As with other causes of anemia, symptoms related to decreased oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood can include tiredness and shortness of breath. Vitamin B12 deficiency also interferes with the function of the nervous system, and symptoms due to nervous system damage may be apparent even before the anemia is discovered.

Feelings of numbness, tingling, weakness, lack of coordination, clumsiness, impaired memory, and personality changes can all occur. Both sides of the body are usually affected, and the legs are more affected than the arms.

Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal products and is very rare in plant derived foodstuffs. Shiitake mushrooms are an exception and do contain a small amount of Vitamin B2. Those who prefer a vegetarian diet can get reasonable amounts from fermented foods like soybean curd and fermented milk like soya milk. Many vegetarian foods are however fortified with extra vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is very soluble, so is therefore lost in water during the cooking process. It is also sensitive to strong acids, light, alcohol, estrogen and sleeping pills and these products may impair the absorption of the vitamin. Those who eat a lot of fish should have no trouble with a vitamin B12 deficiency, but there are many who may have to supplement their diets with vitamin B12. People who suffer from intestinal parasites, diarrhea and other digestive complaints may also experience a decreased absorption of Vitamin B12.

Lamb’s liver, sardines, trout, salmon, tune, eggs, cheddar cheese, lean beef and haddock all contain Vitamin B12.

The functions of Vitamin B12 include maintaining a healthy nervous system; improved memory and concentration; improved posture and balance; the production of red blood cells; the correct utilization of fats, carbohydrates and proteins; the prevention of cancer; detoxifying of cyanide from tobacco smoke and certain foods; protecting against allergies and toxins; alleviating symptoms of premenstrual tension; the treatment of chronic fatigue; and assisting in the increase sperm counts where they are low.

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