Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, has a bright red colour due to its high cobalt content, and plays a key role in red blood cell and nervous system health. Initially, this nutrient was used to treat pernicious anemia, which occurs when the stomach mucosa lacks a protein called intrinsic factor, which facilitates vitamin B12 absorption from a part of the body called the ileum. Pernicious anemia is caused by a lack of vitamin B12, since it is essential for the formation of red blood cells. It is more difficult for vegetarians and vegans to obtain enough vitamin B12. Additionally, as we age the body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food sources decreases. Animal foods are the most readily absorbed and abundant sources of vitamin B12.
In New Zealand, vitamin B12 is a popular supplement and is taken in many forms: capsules, sublinguals melts, chewables as well as tablets.