VITAMIN B12

What is the function of Vitamin B12 in children?
Vitamin B12 also known as cyanocobalamin is necessary for the formation and maturation of red blood cells and the synthesis of DNA. Vitamin B12 is also necessary for normal nerve function.

How is Vitamin B12 absorbed in the body?
It is a water soluble vitamin and thus does not need fat for absorption from the body. However it needs presence of "intrinsic factor" - a factor secreted by parietal cells in the stomach. The vitamin B12 combines with the intrinsic factor and is absorbed in the small intestine.

Which organs are in the body have high stores of vitamin B12?
Typically, water-soluble vitamins cannot be stored by the body. Vitamin B12 is special, because the body can store it for years in the liver.

Which food items are good stores of vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 occurs in foods that come from animals. Plants are poor sources of vitamin B12. Thus in vegetarians, supplementation may be required.

What is the daily requirement of vitamin B12?
The recommended daily allowance of Vitamin B12 is 0.4-0.9 microgram per day in children upto 8 years of age and 1.2-2.4 microgram per day in children more than 8 years of age.

In which conditions can vitamin B12 deficiency occur?
Vitamin B12 is stored in the human body for 3-5 years and hence deficiency is rare. Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur when the body is unable to properly use the vitamin. Pernicious anemia can make the body unable to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestinal tract. In pernicious anemia, the intrinsic factor is not produced in the stomach and thus vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed. Deficiency of vitamin B12 due to poor intake of diet is rare. Plants are poor sources of vitamin B12. Thus in vegetarians, supplementation may be required.

What are the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to tiredness, fatigue due to megaloblastic anemia. In this condition, the bone marrow produces abnormal red cells that are larger than normal but lack hemoglobin. Over a period of time, other blood cells such as white cells and platelets also reduce. Patients have increased chances of bleeding and getting infections. In infants, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a unique neurological problem called as infantile tremor syndrome in which the child can get tremors and milestones can be lost if the condition is prolonged.

In adults vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to loss of touch sensation, imbalance and other neurological problems.

How is the diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency made?
Diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency can be established by measuring the blood vitamin B12 levels.

What is the treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 can be given as intramuscular or subcutaneous injections. Generally 1 to 2 mg daily is required as a large dose. Oral treatment with 2 mg per day is as effective as monthly 1 mg injections

What happens when excess quantity of vitamin B12 is taken in the diet?
No known toxicity of vitamin B12 is known if taken in excess.
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