Vitamins play an essential role in maintaining our physical and mental health. Among the vitamins that our body needs, B12 vitamin is one of the most crucial ones for our mental well-being. In this article, we'll dive deep into the importance of B12 vitamin for our mental health and what happens when we have a deficiency.

What is B12 vitamin? B12 vitamin, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in many bodily functions, including the production of red blood cells and DNA synthesis. B12 vitamin is not produced by the human body, and we rely on external sources like food or supplements to obtain it.

How does B12 vitamin work? B12 vitamin helps to maintain healthy nerve cells and plays a significant role in neurotransmitter synthesis. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that our brain uses to communicate, and imbalances in these chemicals can lead to various mental health conditions like depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

Why is B12 vitamin important for mental health? B12 vitamin is essential for mental health because it helps to maintain healthy brain function, mood regulation, and cognitive performance. Research shows that people with low levels of B12 vitamin are more likely to experience depression and anxiety. Studies also indicate that B12 vitamin deficiency may increase the risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia in older adults.

What are the symptoms of B12 vitamin deficiency? B12 vitamin deficiency can cause a range of symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, anemia, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, difficulty walking, and mood changes just to name a few. Long-term deficiency can lead to nerve damage and neurological problems.

What are the causes of B12 vitamin deficiency? The most common cause of B12 vitamin deficiency is a lack of absorption from the diet. Vegans and vegetarians are at higher risk of deficiency because the active form of B12 vitamin is mainly found in animal-based foods like meat, eggs, and dairy. Other factors that can contribute to B12 vitamin deficiency include gastrointestinal disorders, medication use, and aging. In addition, excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to B12 vitamin deficiency as it can damage the cells in the stomach lining responsible for B12 absorption. Chronic stress has also been linked to decreased levels of B12 vitamin due to its impact on the digestive system and nutrient absorption. Smoking contributes to B12 vitamin deficiency by interfering with the absorption and utilization of the vitamin in the body. Additionally, certain medical conditions such as pernicious anemia and Crohn's disease can affect the body's ability to absorb B12.


How to test for B12 deficiency?

Testing for B12 deficiency is an essential step in diagnosing and treating the condition. The most common test for B12 levels is the serum B12 test, which measures the total amount of B12 in the blood. However, this test may not always be accurate since it measures both active and inactive forms of B12, and only a small amount of B12 is active.

The most reliable test for B12 deficiency is the intracellular B12 test or MMA (methylmalonic acid) test. Unlike the serum B12 test, which only measures the total amount of B12 in the blood, the intracellular test measures the amount of active B12 inside the cells where it is needed.

MMA testing is another reliable test for B12 deficiency. It measures the amount of methylmalonic acid in the blood, which is an indicator of B12 status. When B12 levels are low, methylmalonic acid levels rise, indicating a deficiency.

There are several reasons why the intracellular and MMA tests are more accurate than the serum B12 test. Firstly, the intracellular test measures only the active form of B12 that the cells can use, so it is a more accurate reflection of the body's B12 status. Secondly, the MMA test measures the byproduct of B12 metabolism, which is a more accurate reflection of B12 deficiency than simply measuring the total amount of B12 in the blood. Another useful test is the homocysteine test, which measures levels of an amino acid that can accumulate in the blood when B12 levels are low.

In conclusion, B12 vitamin is an essential nutrient for maintaining our mental health and well-being. It plays a vital role in brain function, mood regulation, and cognitive performance. B12 vitamin deficiency can lead to a range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. It's essential to ensure that we get enough B12 vitamin from our diet or supplements to maintain optimal mental health and prevent deficiency-related conditions. If you suspect you have a deficiency, consult with your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

While the serum B12 test is frequently used by physicians to assess B12 deficiency, its accuracy can sometimes be questionable. For amore precise and dependable evaluation of B12 status, it is recommended to perform an intracellular B12 test, MMA or homocysteine test. These tests off era more comprehensive reflection of the body's B12 status, which is imperative for diagnosing and treating B12 deficiency.

Photos by Tim Mossholder.