No doubt you’ve heard of the B complex vitamins—a group of eight water-soluble vitamins essential to the body’s health. Because they’re water soluble, they aren’t stored in the body and are constantly excreted, so they need to be consumed regularly.
The B vitamins have inter-related functions, but together play an important role in keeping our bodies running smoothly and helping to convert our food into fuel so we stay energized all day. They work together and are often described as the “spark plugs” of our body, providing both mental and physical energy.
Separately, B vitamins have benefits, too. Vitamin B-12, for example, is often referred to as the “energy” vitamin and plays a critical role in the production of cellular energy and for DNA synthesis.
Vitamin B-12 is also known as the “memory” vitamin. The brain requires it for mental clarity, healthy neurological function and to combat stress. It’s also necessary for proper red blood cell formation, for helping to create the sleep hormone melatonin and for the “mood” hormone serotonin.
For these reasons and more, you don’t want to run low on vitamin B-12, but many people do. In fact, the Tufts University Framingham Offspring Study suggests that 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have B-12 levels in the low normal range—a range at which many could experience adverse neurological symptoms.
Some of those coming up short on B-12 can include strict vegans or vegetarians, since food sources of B-12 are found in animal products such as fish, beef, poultry and eggs but not generally in plant foods. Others who may be lacking in getting enough vitamin B-12 are those aged 50+, those with digestive disorders, those who’ve had weight-loss surgery and those taking acid-reducing medications.
A deficiency in vitamin B-12 can be serious, too. It can lead to anemia, weakness, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, pale skin, neurological problems, muscle weakness, vision loss or mental problems.
That’s why strict vegans and vegetarians—as well as others who don’t always get enough vitamin B-12—are often encouraged to supplement their diet with vitamin B-12. However, not all vitamin B-12 supplements are alike and are not equally absorbable in the body. For instance, methylcobalamin is the most natural and absorbable form of vitamin B-12, while cyanocobalamin is the synthetic, not-as-readily-absorbable version of B-12.
So, make sure you get your B vitamins, including vitamin B-12, to feel the energy you need each and every day!