Vitamin B12 is needed for the formation of the blood cells, nerve sheaths and various proteins (so it has a major role in preventing mental health conditions like Alzheimer). Also can prevent megaloblastic anaemia (release of immature red blood cells due to the failure of maturation in the bone marrow) and neurological disturbances. Combined with neurological problems, can lead to pernicious anaemia. Vitamin B12 is essential for growth functions, mainly as a cofactor in intermediary metabolism (converting fat and carbs into cellular nutrients).
Vitamin B12 has three enzymes dependent on it, being cofactor for methionine synthase (enzyme recycling homocysteine back to methionine - i already write on some previous posts about the homocysteine role in early Alzheimer diagnosis), with methionine synthase they help in the production of the folate active form (low vitamin B12 levels will disrupt the folate metabolism. The second enzyme is the Methylmalonyl COA mutase, which converts Methylmalonyl COA into Succinyl COA, producing energy from proteins and fatty acids. Succinyl COA is also needed in haemoglobin production. The third enzyme is responsible for structural changed in the amino-acid called leucin.
Present in more than 155 of the people over 60, the lack of vitamin B12 leads to defective DNA synthesis in cells, affecting their growth and repair (most affected tissue being the bone marrow, resulting in accelerate ageing. Increasing homocysteine, as i said earlier, it is also a risk factor for vascular disease, dementia, cognitive impairment and osteoporosis). The symptoms are similar to folate deficiency, but if you treat it with folates, the anaemia disappears, the damage to the nervous system will not (keep in mind that this is irreversible and life threatening, so do not overdose yourself with folic acid).
The lack of vitamin B12 is not related to the intake, but to the malabsorption or lack of intrinsic factor. The malabsorption can be caused by atrophic gastritis (as you age the HCL secretion decreases, and this will promote bacterial overgrowth so you are not releasing enough B12, and some of it it is used by the overgrown bacteria. Without intrinsic factor protein, the absorption is not possible. The intrinsic factor is made by specific cells in the stomach, and these can be destroyed by the immune system in autoimmune diseases or in atrophic gastritis). This will make impossible to get enough vitamin B12 through diet, so B12 injections will be used to bypass the absorption barriers.
Next post will be about vitamin B12 deficiency and toxicity.
P.S. If you are Romanian, you can also publish your post link in the Publish0x Romanian Community Facebook group for others to read it.
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Disclaimer: This text is also re-published on my personal blogs, such as this one.