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Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin which cannot be made in the body. It has a range functions, including fatty acid and amino acid metabolism, DNA synthesis, the maturation of new red blood cells and in the synthesis of myelin - an important component in nerve cells.
Deficiencies in B12 can be more common that most people think, with symptoms including anaemia, lethargy, headaches, difficulty walking and poor memory. Studies have shown that around 14-16% of 20-59 year olds and 20% of over 60 year olds are marginally deficient in B12, and would benefit from supplementation.
You may have heard that vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, but this is slightly misleading. The microorganisms which produce vitamin B12 live in soil and, after being eaten by animals, colonise their gut and continue producing B12. This is why animal products are a good source of B12. Vegetarians and vegans should increase their intake of B12 via fortified foods or supplements.