Vitamin B12 Benefits

How Does Vitamin B12 Work?

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy nerve and blood cells. It is also important for making DNA. In addition, vitamin B12 helps to break down homocysteine, an amino acid that can cause problems if it builds up to high levels. In particular, it is thought that high homocysteine may contribute to problems such as cardiovascular disease or blood clots.
In food, vitamin B12 is bound to protein and is released by stomach acid. Then it binds to a substance known as intrinsic factor (which is produced in the stomach) and is absorbed into the bloodstream through the small intestine. Any problems in either of these steps can result in a deficiency.
To overcome such problems in absorption, vitamin B12 injections (or, more recently, nasal sprays) are often used. Although it was once thought that injections were the only way to treat vitamin B12 deficiencies due to low or absent intrinsic factor, it is now known that oral forms can be just as effective, although much higher doses are required. Small amounts of vitamin B12 can be absorbed after oral consumption, even without any intrinsic factor.

Vitamin B12 Uses in Children

Vitamin B12 is safe for children when taken in doses that do not exceed the recommended amounts (see Vitamin B12 Dosage). Although vitamin B12 is a fairly non-toxic substance (see Vitamin B12 Toxicity), children can be more susceptible to the possible toxicities of drugs and supplements. Do not give your child vitamin B12 supplements in excess of the recommended dosage without the approval and supervision of your child's healthcare provider.

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Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD
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