As a vitamin, B-12 is distinct from iron, a mineral, in both its composition and function as a nutrient. However, they are interrelated. On the other hand, their relationship with one another is not the extent of their significance. The body requires both independently for different reasons and without either, health complications can result.
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Vitamin B-12 is another name for cobalamin. It is a water-soluble vitamin unique because the body can store a supply in the liver that can last up to six years. The body requires B-12 for metabolism, the maintenance of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. It appears naturally in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products and fortified prepared foods. Deficiency is rare, but results most often in those with pernicious anemia, which hinders intestinal absorption. Accordingly, other deficiencies often accompany it. Symptoms of a B-12 deficiency includes tingling, numbness, weakness, imbalance and anemia.
Iron is a metal that the body requires for overall blood health and particularly for oxygen and carbon dioxide transport. The common term for an iron deficiency is anemia, which causes several blood-related health complications. Symptoms of anemia include pallid skin, shortness of breath, dizziness, brittle nails, extreme fatigue, fast heartbeat, oral inflammation or pain, weakness, irritability, headache, poor appetite, unusual cravings and restless leg syndrome. The appropriate dosage per day of iron is 8 milligrams per day and 10 milligrams per day for breastfeeding women.
Vitamin B-12 and Iron
One of the primary causes of iron deficiency is blood loss. Anything that causes blood loss, from heavy periods to peptic ulcers, can eventually cause an iron deficiency. Given the body requires vitamin B-12 to produce red blood cells, a deficiency in vitamin B-12 can directly lead to a deficiency in iron. In this way, the onset of anemia could be the result of a B-12 deficiency rather than an iron deficiency, although the relationship is indirect. This could result to confusion between the two, although they are completely different.
The third nutrient, folate, also shares a relationship with vitamin B-12 and iron. Another B-complex vitamin, B-9, folate binds to red blood cells when there is an iron deficiency. However, much like anemia, folate absorption by red blood cells could result immediately following a B-12 deficiency, given that it directly results in an iron deficiency. The ultimate conclusion from this discovery is that iron manages blood folate levels. In this way, both iron and vitamin B-12 are necessary for appropriate folate management.
- MedlinePlus.com: Iron
- MedlinePlus.com: Vitamin B-12 Level
- "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; A. K. Saraya, M.D., V. P. Choudhry, M.D. and O. P. Ghai, M.D.; Interrelationships of Vitamin B-12, Folic Acid and Iron in Anemia of Infancy and Childhood: Effect of Vitamin B-12 and Iron Therapy on Folate Metabolism; June 1973