Celebrities use to it to get energy, some people say they’ve lost weight because of it, neurologists and neurosurgeons prescribe it to those whose nervous system has been injured, vegetarians feel the need to regularly supplement their diet with it, blah blah – so what’s all the hype about? Let’s answer that question by breaking down its answer into a couple of more questions. The simpler, the better! So, what is B12?
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B-Vitamins and contains a number of similar compounds. These include: cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin, adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin. Crazy, boring names I know! Only the later two are utilized by your body. If you take in any of the former two types, they will eventually be converted to any of the other two that your body likes to use.
The B12 vitamin contains the metal Cobalt and has a central ring called the ‘Corrin’ ring which is why this group of compounds is sometimes also known as the “Corrinoids.”
Note from Regev: There are gazillion uses and benefits for B12.
Some Facts About Vitamin B12
Now, let’s dig deeper into the wonder that is vitamin B-12. It’s cool because it’s different from the other vitamins. That’s because: It is the largest and has the most diverse structure of all the vitamins.
It is stored in very large amounts in the human body – children having lesser amounts as compared to adults because this vitamin slowly accumulates (that doesn’t mean that the elderly individuals have the largest amounts of this vitamin! That’s because in old age, there are problems in the absorption of this vitamin – something that we go in much greater detailed in our ebook).
The Un-Cool Pseudo-B12?
Pseudo-B12 is like B12 but it’s of no use to your body because you can’t utilize this form. Pseudo-B12 isn’t cool at all because if someone has this form of B12 in their body, it will come up in the B12 serum tests and show that that particular person has adequate amounts of B12 in their body, when they are actually deficient in it since the form they have can’t be used by their body. Pseudo-B12 is found in some Algae and the bacterium Spirulina.
Bonus Story: How Was Vitamin B12 Discovered?
Many, many years ago, a horrible and severely debilitating disease affected numerous people eventually putting them to death. Doctors were trying hard to find a cure but all efforts were in vain. Patients who had this disease got severe anaemia, had very low red cell counts, neurological damage and eventually died.
A doctor then noticed that something found in the diet could cure this disease – he was soon joined by another fellow physician who had similar beliefs. Their theory was backed up by the fact that after dogs were bled, their red blood cell counts increased by the administration of liver (red meats and vegetables were found to be less effective) – an experiment that had been conducted by another researcher.
These two doctors began feeding their patients with liver and noticed how their patients condition improved. That cured the disease that was called ‘Pernicious Anaemia’ or the anaemia that results due to a B12 deficiency.
However, another researcher noticed that people who had had their stomachs surgically removed (due to cancer, etc) also suffered from Pernicious Anaemia even if liver and meats were fed to them. Guess what he did? Well, to tell you the truth, you couldn’t guess it in a million years so here goes: This researcher ate meat, vomited it out and fed his own vomit to his patients and noticed that they got better.
Since his stomach was intact and his patients didn’t have one, he concluded that something within the stomach aided in the absorption of B 12 vitamin from there. He called it the ‘intrinsic factor,’ a term we still use. Back then, B12 wasn’t known – just the fact that it existed was known. Therefore, he called it the ‘extrinsic factor.’ Vitamin B12 was isolated many years later and eventually given its unique name.
Written by Aqsa, my partner in crime and main author of “The B12 Deficiency Survival Handbook“.