From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of blood. It is one of the eight B vitamins. It is normally involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation, but also fatty acid synthesis and energy production.
Vitamin B12 is the name for a class of chemically-related compounds, all of which have vitamin activity. It is structurally the most complicated vitamin and it contains the biochemically rare element cobalt. Biosynthesis of the basic structure of the vitamin can only be accomplished by bacteria, but conversion between different forms of the vitamin can be accomplished in the human body. A common synthetic form of the vitamin, cyanocobalamin, does not occur in nature, but is used in many pharmaceuticals and supplements, and as a food additive, due to its stability and lower cost. In the body it is converted to the physiological forms, methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin, leaving behind the cyanide, albeit in minimal concentration. More recently, hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin, and adenosylcobalamin can also be found in more expensive pharmacological products and food supplements. The utility of these is presently debated.
Historically, vitamin B12 was discovered from its relationship to the disease pernicious anemia, which is an autoimmune disease that destroys parietal cells in the stomach that secrete intrinsic factor. Intrinsic factor is crucial for the normal absorption of B12, therefore, a lack of intrinsic factor, as seen in pernicious anemia, causes a vitamin B12 deficiency. Many other subtler kinds of vitamin B12 deficiency, and their biochemical effects, have since been elucidated.