Vitamin B12 (Cobalamines)
Vitamin B12 is in fact not just one single vitamin, but rather a whole group of them, the so-called cobalamines. These are formed exclusively by microorganisms such as bacteria, and contribute for example towards the formation of red blood cells, the normal function of the immune system and a normal homocysteine level. Vitamin B12 also has a function in cell division and contributes towards a normal metabolic energy rate. A constant supply of B12 should therefore under no circumstances be neglected.
According to the German Society of Nutrition (DGE), the recommended supply quantity (DGE) for infants lies between 0.4 – 0.8 µg/day, for children at 1.0 – 3.0 µg/day and for adults at 3.0 µg/day; pregnant women have a slightly higher requirement totalling 3.5 µg/day and breast-feeding mothers require 4.0 µg/day.
Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficit (hypocobalaminemia)
A vitamin B12 deficit generally makes itself apparent through tingling, cold hands and feet or more general symptoms such as concentration deficits, exhaustion, personality changes or a general feeling of weakness. These symptoms are an expression of a changed haemogram or a special form of anaemia. In worst cases, this can even lead to damage to the central nervous system.
A vitamin B12 deficiency occurs more frequently in the elderly, and is suspected of increasing the impairment of memory performance and the risk of dementia. However, this deficiency is caused less by insufficient nutrition, but rather as a consequence of chronic gastritis, through which the vitamin B12 can no longer be extracted from food and processed.
Foodstuffs containing a lot of B12
- Fish (mackerel, herring, tuna)
- Egg yolk
Vitamin B12 is mainly formed by the microorganisms in the digestive tracts of animals, and can only be found in trace quantities in plants. Generally, therefore, our vitamin B12 requirements can be covered through nutrition; this also applies for vegetarians able to cater for their daily requirements through egg and milk products. This becomes more problematic for vegans. The vitamin B12 content in vegetable products is becoming increasingly low, and the edible algae nori and chlorella do have a high vitamin B12 content, but the usability of the vitamin has been placed into question. Vegan foodstuffs enriched with vitamin B12 are also generally insufficient to completely cover daily requirements. In addition, organic products may not be enriched with vitamin B12. For this reason, vegans should have their blood values checked regularly and revert to nutritional supplements.