Sixty years ago a water-soluble vitamin was discovered that was absorbed through the intestine and was transported in the bloodstream. It was not stored as fat and any excess of this vitamin after the body admit its requirements, was excreted. The vitamin was named vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the human system. It is an antioxidant and active ingredient in the production of red blood cells, helps metabolize fats and proteins and synthesizes a fatty substance named myelin that sheaths nerve fibers. One of its most important roles is in the production of a substance which inhibits the ability of cells to become malignant. It is believed that injections of vitamin B12 increases energy. However, no substantive proof is available in support of this claim. The recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences is 2.4 mg per day for an adult.
The best-known sources of vitamin B12 are animal products such as milk, meat, fish, cheese, yoghurt and eggs. High doses of vitamin B12 or also found in most cereals.
Deficiencies in vitamin B12 are extremely rare in young people. However, in adults because of an impaired digestive system, instances of B12 deficiency are not unusual and require to be supplemented. The reason for low absorption is the reduced production of stomach acids necessary in assimilation of the vitamin. Another reason stems from chronic gastritis associated with age which impairs the ability of the stomach lining to absorb the vitamin. In such cases dietary supplements may have to be relied on to compensate for the deficiency. Alternatively, the patient may be advised oral medication or B12 injections.
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