Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement and a prescription medication. Vitamin B12 exists in several forms and contains the mineral cobalt [1-4], so compounds with vitamin B12 activity are collectively called "cobalamins". Methylcobalamin and 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin are the forms of vitamin B12 that are active in human metabolism .
Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis [1-5]. Vitamin B12 functions as a cofactor for methionine synthase and L-methylmalonyl-CoA mutase. Methionine synthase catalyzes the conversion of homocysteine to methionine [5,6]. Methionine is required for the formation of S-adenosylmethionine, a universal methyl donor for almost 100 different substrates, including DNA, RNA, hormones, proteins, and lipids. L-methylmalonyl-CoA mutase converts L-methylmalonyl-CoA to succinyl-CoA in the degradation of propionate [3,5,6], an essential biochemical reaction in fat and protein metabolism. Succinyl-CoA is also required for hemoglobin synthesis.
Intake recommendations for vitamin B12 and other nutrients are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies (formerly National Academy of Sciences) . DRI is the general term for a set of reference values used for planning and assessing nutrient intakes of healthy people. These values, which vary by age and gender , include:
Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA): average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%–98%) healthy individuals.
Adequate Intake (AI): established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA and is set at a level assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy.
Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL): maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects .
Table 1 lists the current RDAs for vitamin B12 in micrograms (mcg) . For infants aged 0 to 12 months, the FNB established an AI for vitamin B12 that is equivalent to the mean intake of vitamin B12 in healthy, breastfed infants.