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Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin.  After the body uses these vitamins, leftover amounts leave the body through the urine, thus unable to be stored in the body.  However, vitamin B12 is special in that the body can store it for years, in the liver.


Vitamin B12 has the largest and most complex chemical structure of all the vitamins.  It is unique among vitamins in that it contains a metal ion, cobalt. For this reason cobalamin is the term used to refer to compounds having vitamin B12 activity.  Methylcobalamin and 5-deoxyadenosyl cobalamin are the forms of vitamin B12 used in the human body.  The form of cobalamin used in most supplements, cyanocobalamin, is readily converted to 5 deoxyadenosyl and methylcobalamin in the body.  In mammals, cobalamin is a cofactor for only two enzymes, methione synthase and L-methylmalonyl-CoA mutase.    Ultimately, animals must obtain vitamin B12 directly or indirectly from bacteria, and these bacteria may inhabit a section fo the gut which is posterior to the section where B12 is absorbed.  Thus, herbivorous animals must either obtain B12 from bacteria in their rumens, or by reingestion of cecotrope feces.


Vitamin B12 is found in foods that come from animals, including fish and shellfish, meat (especially liver), poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products.  Eggs are often mentioned as a good B12 source, but they also contain a factor that blocks absorption.  Certain insects such as termites contain B12 produced by their gut bacteria, in a way analogous to ruminant animals.  While lacto-ovo vegetarians usually get enough B12 through consuming dairy products, vegans will lack B12 unless they consume B12-containing dietary supplements or B12-fortified foods.  According to the UK Vegan Society, the present consensus is that any B12 present in plant foods is likely to be unavailable to humans because B12 analogues can compete with B12 and inhibit metabolism.


Sources of B12 that are suitable for a vegan diet include seaweed called laver, barley grass, and human intestinal bacteria.


Vitamin B12 deficiencies occur when the body is unable to properly use the vitamin.  Pernicious anemia can make the body unable to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract.  Because vitamin B12 comes primarily from animal products, those following a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, and do not consume eggs or dairy products, may require vitamin B12 supplements.  Non-animal sources of vitamin B12 exist but are highly variable in their B12 content.  They are considered unreliable sources of the vitamin.  Those who have undergone surgery on specific parts of the small intestine or stomach are also prone to a deficiency if they do not take B12 supplements.

Low levels of B12 can cause anemia, numbness or tingling in the arms and legs, weakness, and loss of balance.



One response to this post.

  1. Posted by ramesh on May 8, 2011 at 9:59 am

    what r main source of vit b12 for vegan. how to supplement this deficiency with max absorption.


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