Vitamins are organic compounds occurring in small quantities in different foods and are required for growth and maintenance of good health. Vitamins are generally not synthesized by the human body and so require external intake or a precursor for the synthesis of certain essential vitamins.
Vitamin B12 characteristics:
It is a deep red crystalline substance and stable to heat in neutral solutions. It is abundant in ox liver. They are also named cobalamin and cyanocobalamin. It has one of the most complex structures and is an organometallic compound.
Cobalamin is actively absorbed mostly by the ileum and is naturally found in animal products. They are required for DNA synthesis.
Recommended daily dosage:
For children is 2-4mcg and 5mcg for adults.
Pregnant and lactating mothers require 8mcg and 6mcg daily.
Deficiency of cobalamin can cause:
Most common victims of B12 deficiency are vegetarians and vegans. Plants and humans cannot produce this vitamin and may encounter:
1. Defected mutase activity which disrupts the production of certain fats and proteins.
2. Elevation in homocysteine level in blood. Normally homocysteine is converted to methionine but deficiency of B vitamins can cause elevated levels of homocysteine.
It is a common amino acid found in the blood. The main source is meat. High level of homocysteine can cause heart issues.
3. Anemia. Low levels of B12 can inhibit the production of red blood cells and their growth.
4. It affects the nervous system. It can cause vision impairment, mental stress, etc.
5. It also causes tiredness, loss of appetite and muscles weakness.
The vegan source of B12:
Since this vitamin is only produced by animals, vegans are at constant risk of this vitamin deficiency.
This is no more the case with growing technology. IIT Chennai developed a process for producing vitamin B12 from waste products.
Though the vitamin is not produced by plants, they are found in Spirulina (blue-green algae) and another anaerobic bacteria. Spirulina synthesized vitamin is under controversy as some studies show vitamin B12 is in an inactive state.
Other regular vegan sources are fortified foods containing B12. These fortified foods provide essential nutrients to our body. Breakfast cereals containing B12, soy milk containing cobalamin, nutritional yeasts are some sources of B12. Also, some fruit juice contains vitamin B12. Added nutrients in food also help make up for other deficiencies and meet the recommended daily requirement and grow healthy.
Supplements are also a method of meeting the requirements, although one should always consult a professional before including supplements in the diet. Supplements are meant to fill the gap between food and nutrients gained and not substituted for food itself.