You need to eat meat NOT potatoes to get your vitamin B12 fix

vitamin B12 being carried by animal proteinVitamins, you know you need them and worry (with a little help from the media), that you may not be getting enough of all of them. 

You may be taking a daily multi-vitamin, just to be safe.  But multi-vitamins don’t always deliver all the goodies “needed” e.g. omega-3 which helps protect against the side effects of obesity,  is typically absent or they deliver them, but in excess of what you really need, which can cause trouble too.

The vitamin that many people may be missing out on, is cobalamin, better known as Vitamin B12.    In the case of vitamin B12,  shortages are rarely about “bad” eating habits per se.  Most of the time, the shortage of vitamin B12, arises because the vitamin B12 “package” is not being delivered. 

 The vitamin B12 package

Vitamin B12 is a precious commodity which always needs to be “attached “ – to something.

It starts out “attached” to protein in food.   A little fancy foot work happens in the stomach and the vitamin B12 package, is then handed over to a special protein, known as intrinsic factor.  “Attached” to intrinsic factor, the vitamin B12 is then carried into the liver.    From there, it is moved around the body to individual cells where it is used.  Movement around the body is facilitated by “attachement” to a custom transport protein, known as transcobalamin. 

Cells is the body NEED vitamin B12, to fire up two very important enzymes : methionine synthase and L-methyl-malonyl Co A mutase.

Making the vitamin B12 delivery

Vitamin B12 is “attached” to protein in food.  The caveat to this – the protein must be an ANIMAL protein.  

Plants don’t make the stuff.  To be perfectly honest, neither do animals – the only guys who know the chemistry behind making this special protein, which contains a cobalt atom, are bacteria.  The bacteria living in the guts of the animals “we eat”, are the ultimate vitamin B12 factory.   

These little guys churn out the stuff, as a matter of course.  In the process, they provide the animal who is  giving them a nice cosy home and feeding them, with this important goodie, as a complimentary gift.  

Animals store their cobalamin gift, in their livers – so if you want to top up on vitamin B12, a plate of liver is the best way to go.  100 g of liver will contain 26-58 ug of the stuff.   A 100 g steak or a pork chop,  gives you 1-3 ug and an egg yolk, will give you 1-2.5 ug.  

Vegetarians can be short changed

If you are not eating ANY animal protein, or you’re eating very little animal protein – this can lead to trouble. 

Strict vegetarians NEED to take a Vitamin B12 supplement.   Buying your pills and swallowing them, on a regular basis is not a good idea, it is an absolute must.

But,  you don’t have to be a vegetarian to be short changed and if you’re running low,  swallowing a pill is not always going to “fix” the problem. 

Part II in Vitamin B12 series coming tomorrow -  Unlocking vitamin B12 from your dinner takes an acidic twist.

Vitamin B12 Sources and Bioavailability. Experimental Biology and Medicine 2007, 232:1266-1274.  Fumio Watanabe.

Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind better health ? 

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Further reading

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