Your body needs vitamins and minerals to function at its fullest potential. There are 13 essential vitamins according to Medline Plus. These vitamins are considered essential because the body is not able to make them on its own and therefore you need to consume them through food. Medline Plus states that your body uses the B vitamins for energy production and in the production of red blood cells.
Significance of B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential B vitamin that your body uses for many different functions. According to the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, vitamin B12 keeps your body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and also helps make DNA. The American Academy of Family Physicians states that vitamin B12 is mainly available in fish, shellfish, meat and dairy products. According to Medline Plus, if you do not consume enough vitamin B12, you may develop anemia.
Effects of Low B12
If you do not consume enough vitamin B12 or if your body is unable to absorb B12 you may develop problems. According to The American Academy of Family Physicians, a very low level can cause symptoms of anemia, such as paleness, weakness and fatigue, and nervous system problems like depression and dementia.
The two main causes of low vitamin B12 levels are insufficient consumption through diet and inability to absorb vitamin B12 in the intestines or stomach. The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements states that plant foods do not have vitamin B12 unless they are fortified. Therefore if you are a vegetarian you may need to supplement your diet with a B12 supplement. The NIH states that foods like beef liver and clams are the best sources of vitamin B12, but B12 is also in fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products.
In addition to not consuming enough vitamin B12 through diet, you may have depleted levels of B12 if you are not able to absorb B12 properly. According to The American Academy of Family Physicians, absorption problems can come from many factors including a condition called pernicious anemia that destroys the cells in your stomach that help you absorb vitamin B12; intestinal conditions like Crohn's disease; abnormal bacterial growth in your stomach; excessive use of heartburn and ulcer medication; and gastric bypass surgery.
To determine the cause of your depleted B12 levels you will need a doctor's exam. You doctor will perform blood tests and other tests that can help determine the cause. To prevent a low level of vitamin B12 you need to eat food that is high in B12 like fish, poultry, meat, eggs and dairy. The Harvard School of Public Health states that the recommended intake of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms per day. No upper limit has been set.