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Vitamin B12

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Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that is needed by your body to make red blood cells, maintain a healthy brain and nervous system, and to make DNA. Good dietary sources of vitamin B12 include meat, milk, cheese, eggs, and shellfish. The vitamin B12 blood test is usually performed at the same time as a folic acid test, because a lack of either can lead to common a type of anemia.

Vegetarians who do not eat animal products are at increased risk for developing anemia and should take a vitamin B12 supplement. Additionally, women with a vitamin B12 deficiency may have a higher risk of giving birth to a baby with a serious birth defect, such as spina bifida. A severe vitamin B12 deficiency can even lead to permanent brain and nerve damage.

Recent research has shown that increased levels of vitamin B12 in older adults can protect against brain atrophy or shrinkage, associated with Alzheimer's disease or mental impairment.