The Importance of B12 – Part 1: What Is B12?

By guest contributor Barb Swanson
(author of Beyond Foods: The Handbook of Functional Nutrition)

All vitamins are essential. I’m focusing on B12 for two reasons:

  • Many people are deficient in vitamin B12.
  • B12 is utterly essential for ongoing health, from pre-birth onward.

What does B12 do?

  • It helps maintain skin integrity.
  • It allows your red blood cells to carry oxygen.
  • It is essential for nerve health.
  • Most important of all, B12 is essential for healthy DNA.

A fetus produces an average of 250,000 nerve cells EVERY MINUTE during pregnancy. For this reason, B12 is one of the most important nutrients for pregnant women. Once born, we continue to need B12. Our DNA is dependent on the B12 in order to correctly code our cells for health. Therefore, B12 is essential for the correct functioning of every single one of our cells.

Where do we get B12?
B12 is mostly found in animal-based foods. Eggs and dairy are good sources for vegetarians; cold-water oily fish, for pescatarians. For omnivores, add in beef and organ meats from any source. For vegans–and absolutely anyone else–the absolutely best source of B12, by weight, is AFA microalgae. A single gram of this concentrated superfood contains more than 150% of B12’s RDA. Why are so many people deficient in B12? A lack of B12 is rarely dietary except for vegans. However, there is nearly an epidemic of B12 deficiency in the US. If the diet is not to blame, why is this happening? The quick explanation is poor digestive health. However, there are a few distinct and separate ways your digestion may be failing you when it comes to B12 assimilation.

If you would like more details now, the 8-minute video, below, is an excellent explanation of B12 and your body.

If video is not showing in your browser you can see it at


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