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name of the term : Vitamin B12

Short introduction

  • Cobalamin is the term used to refer to compounds with vitamin B12 activity.
  • It contains cobalt, which gives this water-soluble vitamin of the B-complex its red colour.

Main natural sources

  • Found in a wide variety of animal foods: organ meats (beef liver), shellfish (clams), meat, poultry, eggs, milk, dairy foods.

Main function

  • Component of coenzymes, the helpers of enzymes.
  • Involved in e.g.: synthesis (production) of DNA (genetic information), protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism (proper growth); production of red blood cells, proper functioning of the central nervous system, e.g. integrity of the myelin sheath (layer around nerve fibres for a proper conduction of nerve impulses).
  • Prevents high homocysteine (type of amino acid) levels (leading to stroke, cardio-vascular problems).
  • Role in melatonin (hormone) production: regulation of the sleep-wake cycle.

Deficiency disease

  • Deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anaemia (large, immature red blood cells) and severe degeneration of the central nervous system.
  • Most often due to inadequate absorption or lack of intrinsic factor (IF: protein that is essential for B12 absorption in the intestine).
  • Symptoms include: paleness, fatigue, (muscle) weakness, loss of reflexes, memory impairment, dementia and cardio-vascular disease. • Risk for: elderly, vegetarians and alcoholics.
  • Subtype of megaloblastic anaemia is pernicious anaemia that can lead to neurological complications.
  • Studies show vitamin B12 (cobalamin) and folate (folic acid) deficiencies in infants and children are classically present with megaloblastic anaemia and are often accompanied by neurological signs.

Recommended daily intake

Latest Dietary Reference Intakes  (DRIs)
Institute of Medicine (IOM)

Age categoryPer day
Pregnancy
Lactation
2.6 μg (RDA)
2.8 μg (RDA)
Infants 6 – 12 months0.5 μg (AI)
Children
 1 – 3 years
 4 – 8 years
0.9 μg (RDA)
1.2 μg (RDA)
Males
 9 – 13 years
14 – 18 years
19 – 30 years
31 – 50 years
50 – 70 years
> 70 years
1.8 mg (RDA)
2.4 mg (RDA)
2.4 mg (RDA)
2.4 mg (RDA)
2.4 mg (RDA)
2.4 mg (RDA)
Females
 9 – 13 years
14 – 18 years
19 – 30 years
31 – 50 years
50 – 70 years
> 70 years
1.8 μg (RDA)
2.4 μg (RDA)
2.4 μg (RDA)
2.4 μg (RDA)
2.4 μg (RDA)
2.4 μg (RDA)

 

AI = Adequate Intake.
RDA = Recommended Dietary Allowance.

Synonyms : Cobalamin, B12

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