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Food question: Why is vitamin B12 so important for you?

Every week, the Nutrition Center and a different expert answer a pressing question about healthy food. In this episode: vitamin B12. Why you need it and how to get it.

Without vitamin B12, all kinds of biochemical reactions and processes in the body cannot take place. “It is necessary for the conversion of the substance homocysteine ​​into the substance methionine, which is necessary as a building block for proteins,” explains Doorenbos. “In addition, vitamin B12 is necessary, among other things, for the ‘switching on and off’ of certain genes in the DNA > B12 is also necessary for the production of myelin, which forms an insulating layer around many nerve endings and is therefore essential for a well-functioning nervous system .”

“Vitamin B12 also plays an important role in the production of DNA and RNA , which ensure the healthy development of red blood cells in the bone marrow. Vitamin B12 is therefore indispensable for humans.”

What does vitamin B12 contain?

People do make vitamin B12 in the intestines, but the intestines do not absorb it. That is why we have to get vitamin B12 from animal products. “Vitamin B12 is in products such as milk, dairy products, meat, meat products, fish and eggs,” says Patricia Schutte, spokesperson for the Nutrition Center.

Vitamin B12 is also increasingly being added to meat and dairy substitutes. This does not always happen and it is not always in sufficient quantity. The Netherlands Nutrition Center recommends an average daily intake of 2.8 micrograms of vitamin B12. “Vegans are advised to take a vitamin B12 supplement or to use products with added vitamin B12,” says Schutte. “Even in the elderly, especially in the elderly with gastrointestinal infections, the absorption of vitamin B12 from the diet may be insufficient.”

Are you considering taking a vitamin B12 supplement? Then pay close attention to the dosage. “In the store you often find a supplement with 1,000 micrograms, but this is absolutely not necessary for most people,” says Doorenbos. “This is much more than the recommended daily amount and rather intended to supplement a pre-existing vitamin B12 deficiency. Supplements with these extremely high doses are also useful for people with pernicious anemia.” This is a form of anemia.

A vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by insufficient intake, but also by a problem with its absorption. Doorenbos: “In the elderly, the ability to absorb vitamin B12 in the intestine is reduced. An absorption problem can also be caused by autoimmune diseases or problems in the small intestine.”

What is the consequence of too little B12?

“Too little vitamin B12 in the body can cause complaints such as numb fingers and toes, tingling, movements are less precise and you can have problems with your balance,” says Schutte. According to Doorenbos, the seriousness of the consequences of a vitamin B12 deficiency depends on the extent of the deficiency and its duration. “A well-known consequence is also anemia.”

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