Introducing Vitamin B12

Discovered in 1926

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Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, works with many other B vitamins to carry out key roles in functions of the human body. Together with folate and vitamin B6, cobalamin helps to maintain normal blood homocysteine levels which is important as raised homocysteine is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

In addition, vitamin B12 serves as a co-factor for enzymes involved in the normal function of the nervous system, the formation of red blood cells, and for the metabolism of folate. It is also involved in energy production.

The Primary Sources of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is found only in foods of animal origin. One exception is when plant-based foods are fortified. Rich sources of vitamin B12 include shellfish, liver, and game meat such as venison and rabbit. It can also be found in milk and milk products as well as some fish such as herring, sardines, salmon, and trout.

Bioavailability of Vitamin B12

While there is insufficient data on the absorption of vitamin B12, experts assume that about 50% of vitamin B12 is absorbed by adults with a healthy digestive tract. Inadequate absorption occurs when there is not enough acid in the stomach, or when a protein called intrinsic factor is not produced in the stomach. Conventional cooking methods involving high heat (e.g. microwave) and long cooking times may result in some vitamin B12 losses.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Vitamin B12

About 10–30% of older adults are estimated to have chronic inflammation of the stomach, a condition that impairs the absorption of vitamin B12. It is advised that older adults consume fortified foods or supplements to meet their vitamin B12 requirements. Vegans (individuals who do not consume animal-source foods), who do not take fortified foods or supplements, will develop vitamin B12 deficiency. However, it can take several years to develop a vitamin B12 deficiency because the body recycles much of its vitamin B12 by reabsorbing it over and over again. Infants born to vegan mothers are also at risk for deficiency if their mother’s vitamin B12 status was low during pregnancy. Vitamin B12 requirements are increased for individuals who are HIV-positive with chronic diarrhea. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include anemia, general fatigue, loss of appetite, gastric atrophy, neuromuscular pain, neurological problems (gait, memory loss). No adverse effects with excessive intakes of vitamin B12 have been reported.

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate vitamin B12 into your next meal with this delicious recipe below. 

Venison Sausage and Chestnut Casserole*

Ingredients

Venison Sausage casserole

2 tbsp sunflower oil 
16 venison sausages
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 celery sticks, trimmed and thinly sliced
200g chestnut mushrooms, halved (or quartered if large)
300ml red wine
1 beef stock cube
200g pack vacuum-packed cooked  chestnuts
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp cornflour

For the mustard mash
1½ kg medium  potatoes cut into even chunks
75g butter
150ml tub double cream
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Method

Begin by heating 1 tbsp of the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the sausages in two batches over a medium heat for 15 mins, turning regularly, until nicely browned. Transfer the sausages to a large flameproof casserole dish. Next, tip the onions and celery into the frying pan and cook over a medium-high heat for 5 mins or until beginning to soften and lightly colour, stirring regularly. Add a splash more oil if needed. Tip the vegetables into the casserole dish.

Put the remaining oil in the pan, cook the mushrooms over a high heat for 4-5 mins until lightly browned, then add to the casserole. Pour the wine and 300ml water into the dish and crumble the stock cube over the top. Stir in the chestnuts, tomato purée and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover loosely with a lid and simmer gently for 30 mins, stirring occasionally. 

Meanwhile, make the mustard mash. Put the potatoes in a large pan of water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15-20 mins or until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart. Drain well in a colander, then return to the pan and mash with the butter and cream until smooth.Beat in the mustard, season to taste, and set aside.

Mix the cornflour with 2 tbsp cold water until smooth. Stir into the casserole and cook for 2-3 mins, stirring regularly, until the sauce has thickened. Remove the dish from the heat, season and sprinkle with chopped parsley, if using. Serve with the mustard mash.

*This recipe is adapted from BBC food.

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Introducing Vitamin B6

Interacting in the Majority of Biological Reactions

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While looking at diet and cardiovascular disease risk many of us immediately consider our saturated fat intake however Vitamin B6 should not be overlooked. Together with folate and vitamin B12, vitamin B6 is required for maintenance of normal blood homocysteine levels. Raised homocysteine is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin B6, comprises 3 forms: pyridoxine, pyridoxal and pyridoxamine. All three forms of B6 can be converted to the coenzyme PLP. Vitamin B6 in its coenzyme form is involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions, many concerned with protein metabolism. 

Along with its central role in the metabolism of amino acids (protein), it is fair to say that Vitamin B6 is required for the majority of biological reactions in our body including neurotransmitter synthesis, red blood cell formation and metabolism and transport of iron.

Vitamin B6 is stored in muscle tissue.

The Primary Sources of Vitamin B6

There are many good sources of vitamin B6, including chicken, liver (cattle, pig), fish (salmon, tuna) from animals.

In addition, chickpeas, maize and whole grain cereals, green leafy vegetables, bananas, potatoes and other starchy vegetables are ideal sources from fruits and vegetables. Vitamin B6 can also be found in nuts and chickpeas. 

Bioavailability of Vitamin B6

If consuming a mixed diet, the bioavailability of vitamin B6 is about 75%. Vitamin B6 is destroyed by heat but it remains stable during storage.

Risks Related to Inadequate or Excess Intake of Vitamin B6

Deficiency of vitamin B6 alone is uncommon; usually it occurs in combination with a deficit in other B-vitamins. Individuals at risk for poor intakes are alcoholics and those taking tuberculosis medication. Signs of vitamin B6 deficiency include microcytic anemia due to inadequate synthesis of hemoglobin, depression, nerve problems, and irritability. No adverse events have been observed with high intakes of vitamin B6 (from food or supplements).

Find more information on vitamins and micronutrient deficiencies though our partner, Vitamin Angels or download our complete vitamin and mineral guide here

Incorporate vitamin B6 into your next dinner with this delicious recipe below. 

Casserole Roast Chicken with Autumn Herbs*

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients

1 chicken (3½ lbs (1.575kg) free range if possible
1 oz (30g) butter
4-6 teasp. chopped fresh herbs eg. Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon, Chervil, Chives, Marjoram
¼ pint (150ml) light cream
¼ pint (150ml) home-made chicken stock
*Roux, optional
1-2 tablespoons freshly chopped herbs
1 oval casserole

Method

Remove the wish bone and keep for the stock. Season the cavity of the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper and stuff a sprig of tarragon inside. Chop the remaining tarragon and mix with two-thirds of the butter. Smear the remaining butter over the breast of the chicken, place breast side down in a casserole and allow it to brown over a gentle heat. Turn the chicken breast-side up and smear the tarragon butter over the breast and legs. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover the casserole and cook in a moderate oven for 13-12 hours.

(To test if the chicken is cooked, pierce the flesh between the breast and thigh. This is the last place to cook, so if there is no trace of pink here and if the juices are clear the chicken is certainly cooked.) Remove to a carving dish and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Spoon the surplus fat from the juices, add a little freshly chopped tarragon, add in the cream and stock if using* boil up the sauce until it thickens slightly. Alternatively bring the liquid to the boil, whisk in just enough roux to thicken the sauce to a light coating consistency. Taste and correct seasoning.

Carve the chicken into 4 or 6 helpings, each person should have a portion of white and brown meat. Arrange on a serving dish, nap with the sauce and serve.

*Adapted from Daria Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School

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