DNA Digest: Vitamin B12
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DNA Digest: Vitamin B12

Today we're talking about one of the most impressive vitamins out there, vitamin B12. But did you know that our genes can play a role in how we absorb and use this important nutrient? 

In this blog, we'll explore the basics of vitamin B12, the TCN2 gene, and what we need to do to ensure we're getting enough. So, let's dive in!

What is vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in nervous system function, red blood cell production, and DNA synthesis. It's found naturally in animal products like meat, fish, and dairy.

What is the TCN2 gene?

The TCN2 gene produces a protein called transcobalamin II, which is responsible for transporting vitamin B12 from the digestive system to the rest of the body. Variations in this gene can impact how efficiently the body absorbs and uses vitamin B12.

Why is the TCN2 gene important?

Studies have found that individuals with certain variations in the TCN2 gene may have a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, even when consuming adequate amounts of the vitamin. This is because their bodies may have a harder time absorbing and utilising vitamin B12.

How much vitamin B12 do we need?

The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 varies by age and sex. For adults, the recommended intake is 2.4 micrograms per day. However, individuals with certain genetic variations may require higher levels of intake to maintain optimal vitamin B12 status.

What are some sources of vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products like meat, fish, and dairy. Fortified breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast, and some plant milks may also contain vitamin B12.

What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can include fatigue, weakness, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. In severe cases, it can lead to anaemia, neurological damage, and other serious health complications.

What can impact our vitamin B12 status?

In addition to genetic factors, lifestyle factors can also impact our vitamin B12 status. Individuals following a vegan or vegetarian diet may be at higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, as plant-based foods do not naturally contain vitamin B12. Additionally, certain medications can interfere with vitamin B12 absorption, such as acid-reducing drugs and metformin.


  1. Carmel R. Cobalamin, the stomach, and aging. Am J Clin Nutr. 1997;66(4):750-759. doi:10.1093/ajcn/66.4.750
  2. Green R, Allen LH, Bjørke-Monsen AL, et al. Vitamin B12 deficiency. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2017;3:17040. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2017.40
  3. Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes and its Panel on Folate, Other B Vitamins, and Choline. Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Vitamin B12, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, and Choline. National Academies Press (US); 1998. Accessed June 24, 2021.
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