Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that has a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and the formation of red blood cells. It is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, especially affecting DNA synthesis, fatty acid and amino acid metabolism.
No fungi, plants, nor animals (including humans) are capable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes needed for its synthesis. Proved food sources of B12 are animal products (meat, fish, dairy products). Some research states that certain non-animal products possibly can be a natural source of B12 because of bacterial symbiosis.
B12 is the largest and most structurally complicated vitamin and can be produced industrially only through a bacterial fermentation-synthesis. This synthetic B12 is used to fortify foods and sold as a dietary supplement.
Vitamin B12 consists of a class of chemically related compounds (vitamers), all of which show pharmacological activity. It contains the biochemically rare element cobalt (chemical symbol Co). The vitamer is produced by bacteria as hydroxocobalamin, but conversion between different forms of the vitamin occurs in the body after consumption.
B12 aids in lowering homocysteine levels and may lower the risk of heart disease.
Recommended daily amount: 2.4 mcg.
Example sources: fortified cereals, doenjang and chunggukjang (fermented soybeans), nori (seaweed).