Vitamin B12 is one of the most important vitamins your body needs to make new cells each day.
Vitamin B12 deficiency means your body is not getting enough to stay healthy, and as a result you can experience symptoms such as tiredness, headaches, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.
Last reviewed: 03/08/2020 by Dr Simran Deo
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Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamin) is used to make new cells, and is required to keep your bone marrow, nerves and blood cells healthy. It is also important in maintaining memory.
Your body does not make vitamin B12, so you either absorb it from the food you eat or get it by taking supplements. Vitamin B12 is absorbed by attaching itself to a protein called intrinsic factor, which is produced by the cells that line the stomach.
Some of the benefits of vitamin B12 are that it:
According to the NHS, adults aged 19 to 64 years need about 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 a day. The recommended vitamin B12 levels may be different for children, pregnant women and older adults. Your levels are considered low if they are less than 200 nanograms/L in a blood test.
Some examples of foods that are high in vitamin B12 are:
Vitamin B12 is not naturally found in fruit, vegetables and grains. If you’re on a vegan diet and do not eat animal or dairy products you may be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, and are advised to take supplements as directed by your doctor.
If you do not get enough vitamin B12, this can affect your ability to make new and healthy cells and you may experience a low red blood cell count, which is known as anaemia. This can lead to symptoms such as tiredness and shortness of breath.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by any of the following:
The symptoms are: