What the heck IS Vitamin B12 anyway?

I was munching on some cold cereal for breakfast the other day, and as usual, I was browsing over over the Nutrition Facts table posted on the side of the box.  You know it it right?  It’s that big rectangular box posted on the side of basically everything that you consume.  These days, fortunately, they are standardized.  And, one can find the same information listed from product to product regardless of source company or manufacturer.

But have you ever like REALLY looked at the fine print contained with in the box?  There are some complicated words?  What is niacinamide?  What is riboflavin anyway?  Reduced iron?  Why would I need that?

Well, today, I felt it was useful to discuss a little bit about Vitamin B12.  We all know its important to get our vitamins from day to day, but what is Vitamin B12 really?  What does it do?  Lucky for us, there is a ton of great technical literature out there if you really wanted to dig into the nitty-gritty of the biochemistry of the molecule.  And, lucky for you, I will just pull out some of the highlights.  Keep it simple, right?

First, what is it?  It is a cofactor for an enzyme!  Guh!  Don’t worry… it’s not tough… you can think of an enzyme as a little machine.  And, a cofactor is an additional puzzle piece that is required to snap onto a machine to make it do its thing.  See?  Not bad, right?

Here are a few interesting things – Vitamin B12 is important to red blood cell formation!  Cool right?  The red blood cells are the kind that carry oxygen all over the body.  So, yeah… pretty important!  We clearly need optimum red blood cell formation.  We also need Vitamin B12 for correct DNA synthesis.  Yeah, you heard me right… if you want to keep making the blueprints that make you, well, YOU, it turns out that Vitamin B12 is super important for this little bio-manufacturing process to work properly.  The last little tidbit that I’ll share relates to neurological function.  YES! Vitamin B12 is key to keeping that brain firing on all cylinders.

The NIH (National Institutes of Health, yeah, like the smarts guys in the universe when it comes to this kind of thing), offer this table to help keep people organized and on track.  I have recapitulated it here for you (mcg, means microgram by the by – and 1 popcorn kernel is about 1 gram, and a microgram is 1/1,000,000 of a gram – pretty amazingly small amount right?).

Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0-6 Months 0.4mcg 0.4mcg
7-12 Months 0.5mcg 0.5mcg
1-3 Years 0.9mcg 0.9mcg
4-8 Years 1.2mcg 1.2mcg
9-13 years 1.8mcg 1.8mcg
14+ Years 2.4mcg 2.4mcg 2.6mcg 2.8mcg

Its not too hard to get your daily fill of Vitamin B12.  It’s in yogurt, fortified breakfast cereals, fish, ect.

Now you know!  If you REALLY DO want to get down into the interesting details, check out this great site provided by the NIH:  https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/

I hope you all are having a great week!

 

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