The importance of this vitamin shocked me. Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system. Deficiencies can lead to depression, an underdeveloped brain, mania, psychosis or dementia.
Vitamin B12 is found in most animal derived foods. Vegetarians in particular suffer, as the food eaten is not as nutrient dense as that found with meat or liver. An awful lot of vegetables has to be eaten to get the same amount of nutrients.
B12 is found in :
meat (especially liver)
yeast extract (such as marmite)
Plant sources include:
Algae such as Chorella, Spirulina and Nori.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can potentially cause severe and irreversible damage, especially to the brain and nervous system. At levels only slightly lower than normal, a range of symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and poor memory may be experienced.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause symptoms of mania and psychosis. Vitamin B12 deficiency is most commonly caused by low intakes, but can also result from mal-absorption, certain intestinal disorders, low presence of binding proteins, and using of certain medications.
Vitamin B12 is rare from plant sources, so vegetarians will be the vulnerable populations most likely to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency.
Infants are at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency if they were born to vegetarian mothers.
The elderly who have diets with limited meat or animal products are vulnerable populations as well.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest itself as anemia and in some cases cause permanent neurological damage.
Recent studies showed depression is associated with vitamin B12 deficiency; sufficient vitamin B12 level was independently associated with a decreased risk of depression and better cognitive performance adjusted for confounders.