B12 is a component of the B vitamin complex that is vital in various functions of the body. Most importantly, it is responsible for a healthy nervous system. In the body, B12 ensures the neurological pathways are healthy. Better known as cobalamin, B12 aids the development and adequate functioning of the brain tissue and nerve cells. Precisely, it contributes to the formation of protective sheaths of the brain. B12 deficiency neurological symptoms are diverse, as we shall see ahead.
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Importance Of Vitamin B12
Cobalamin helps the brain in two ways.
1. One Carbon Synthesis
This metabolism happens in the brain. B12 aids in the synthesis of the amino acid methionine. It is an amino acid that helps the brain in responding to biochemical reactions. This includes the proper functioning of neurotransmitters. High levels of methionine acid in the brain are a significant cause of several neurodegenerative conditions.
2. Myelin Synthesis
The brain has a protective sheath known as the myelin sheath. B12 helps in the formation of this fatty layer. When there is enough myelin sheath protection, the central and peripheral nerves of the brain function optimally. Any damage to the layer exposes the brain nerves and causes neurological dysfunction.
Effects On The Brain
The lack of cobalamin in the brain has a severe impact on the overall wellbeing of the nervous system. The B12 deficiency neurological symptoms are diverse. They include the following:
1. Subacute Progressive Degeneration
Subacute Progressive Degeneration happens when the protective myelin sheath suffers damage. The exposure of the nerves causes a degenerative condition affecting several organs. It usually starts with the spinal cord. It may also damage the brain and the optical nerves.
One will start by having numbness and tingling, inhibition of movement, and muscle weakness. Some of the other symptoms include weak vision, poor bladder coordination, erectile dysfunction, and abnormal reflex movements. Early detection of any of these symptoms helps in controlling the degeneration with a good therapy of B12 vitamins.
2. Peripheral Neuropathy
This condition inhibits the normal neurotransmission of signals from the spinal cord to other parts of the body. This happens when the myelin sheath degenerates due to a lack of cobalamin. Again, direct damage to the transmitting nerve could also be the cause of the problem. The symptoms are pain and numbness. A tingling sensation may follow in some cases. It becomes severe in the area where the nerve damage is massive.
3. Brain Shrinkage
The brain shrinks after exposure to high levels of harmful acids. The lack of B12 leads to higher levels of methionine acid in the brain. This erodes the myelin sheath and damages the nerves. Degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease accelerate the shrinkage of the brain matter. Other symptoms of this condition include dementia. Medical experts are still deliberating on the correlation between high levels of homocysteine and degenerative diseases.
4. Mental Conditions
The lack of vitamin B12 also has psychiatric effects on a person. When the neurotransmitters are dysfunctional, you have inconsistent coordination of cognitive functions. This leads to a gradual decline of brain functions, including mood and memory. Other manifestations include hallucinations, depression, and dementia. Sometimes, the mental breakdown could be a manifestation of another condition. But it is prudent to check the possibility of cobalamin deficiency.
5. Vascular Conditions
The lack of vitamin B12 leads to higher levels of homocysteine an amino acid in the blood. This poses a significant risk on the vascular system. The acid hardens the blood arteries. Under these conditions, one is likely to suffer a stroke or heart attack. There is no conclusive evidence that this acid causes heart conditions. But most people with vascular diseases have low B12 vitamin and a higher homocysteine acid level in the blood.
6. Poor Brain Development
Pregnant women with a low B12 intake present danger of the unborn baby to poor brain development. The deficiency aids in the slow formulation of brain tissue and nerves. Even after birth, reversing the condition will be difficult. Similarly, cobalamin intake is crucial for children’s development up to puberty. This is when the myelin sheath is sufficiently formidable.
The brain is the nerve center of the neurotransmission system. It controls the entire muscle coordination within the body. Vitamin B12 is a vital component in the formation and protection of the brain until old age. The lack of this essential vitamin is crippling to the nerves. The early detection of the B12 deficiency neurological symptoms is crucial for the proper treatment. This vitamin is readily available in common foods and dairy products. In severe deficiency conditions, clinical advice is recommendable.
Doctor, author and fitness enthusiast, Ahmed Zayed, MD, is a surgery resident with a passion for helping people live a happy healthy life. He is the author of numerous health-related books and contributor to several medicine, health and wellbeing websites.