From a chemical and structural standpoint, B12 (cobalamin) is the largest and most complicated vitamin that neither animals, nor plants can synthesize by themselves. It is found in a number of raw foods as a consequence of natural bacterial symbiosis, and is produced industrially through bacterial fermentation. The B12 complex also contains cobalt, a very rare element in the biochemistry of living organisms. Bacteria produce hydroxocobalamin through biosynthesis, a process that animals, plants and fungi are unable to carry out.
The discovery of the B12 vitamin complex is connected to a number of studies regarding pernicious anemia – an auto-immune disease where a certain type of stomach cells responsible for B12 absorption are mistaken for threats and destroyed by the patient’s own immune system.
Why is vitamin B12 important?
Like all vitamins and minerals, B12 has a valuable contribution to the overall well-being and functionality of the human body. First off, it is involved in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your organs and systems. Every cell needs oxygen and nutrients to survive, and B12 makes sure this is accomplished. Your body also uses this vitamin to make nerves and DNA.
What are the symptoms of B12 deficiency and its connection to hair loss?
As most of us are extremely preoccupied with our busy lifestyle and tight schedules, we tend to ignore important nutritional facts and don’t get enough vitamins from our meals to meet our bodies’ needs. Sooner or later, this will result in B12 deficiency, with a number of symptoms set to kick in:
- Hair loss
- Joint pain
- Yellowed skin
- Swollen tongue and/or mouth ulcers
- Shortness of breath
- A “pins and needles” sensation in your extremities
- Partial or complete loss of taste and smell
- Memory problems
As this vitamin has a vital contribution in the making of new oxygen-carrying blood cells, the hair follicle isn’t properly nourished in case of B12 deficiency (apart from oxygen, vital nutrients and minerals are also carried into the blood stream, straight to your body cells). This results in the gradual deterioration of the hair shaft, beginning with loss of strength and possibly leading to the death of the follicle (root), which is the living part of your hair.
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What can you do to prevent or reverse B12 deficiency?
First off, you need to carefully evaluate your diet. In some cases, vitamin deficiency is caused by the body’s inability to assimilate it, in which case you would have to speak to your doctor, undergo the necessary tests and discuss alternatives. However, if the main cause is your diet alone, you should be aware that vegetarians and women who diet often develop vitamin deficiency. Since plants can’t produce B12, eggs, milk and meat (especially fish) are the main dietary sources. The recommended daily intake for an adult is 2.4 micrograms a day.