Vitamin B12, Vitamin D And Zinc

In this article from our short series on Micronutrients, we will focus on Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Zinc.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are needed by the body in small amounts. They are essential to include in your diet to maintain good health. Micronutrients are different to macronutrients – fat, carbohydrates, and protein, which make up a larger proportion of our diets.

You need to ensure that you are eating a balanced diet to include as many different micronutrients as possible. Below we have focused on three micronutrients which can support heart and brain health.

Vitamin B12

Along with folate, Vitamin B12 is essential for the development and maintenance of a healthy nervous system. It synthesises myelin, which forms the sheath round nerves to provide electrical insulation and helps with nerve regeneration.

Vitamin D

The main source of Vitamin D is sunlight; when it hits exposed skin, sunlight converts an inactive form of the vitamin into an active form.  However, there are a few foods which are good sources of Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is needed to support the absorption of calcium to build and maintain healthy bones and muscles.

In the UK, during the autumn and winter we use up our stores of Vitamin D however this does not provide us with enough of the vitamin. Therefore, it is recommended that adults and children over 1 year old should take a supplement of 10µg/day. Additionally, if you have darker skin tones, cover most of your skin, or do not go outdoors very much, you can consider taking a supplement all year round.

Zinc

Zinc is one of the most essential micronutrients for brain function. It is involved in the formation of new nerves, regulation of neurotransmitters, and has a positive effect on the hippocampus, the part of the brain which plays a major role in learning and memory.  

 

Daily recommended intakes

So how much should you be eating of each micronutrient?

 

Should I take supplements?

Supplements of either one single micronutrient, or multiple micronutrients are readily available in pharmacies, supermarkets, and health food shops. However, if you eat a healthy, balanced diet you should not need to take supplements, unless directed by your health professional.

Exceptions to this are:

  • Folic acid (a form of folate) supplements for women who are trying to get pregnant or during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Vitamin D tablets between October and March (in the UK) containing no more than 10µg.

 

Sources

British Nutrition Foundation (2024) Vitamin and Minerals

Calderón-Ospina CA, Nava-Mesa MO. B (2020) Vitamins in the nervous system: Current knowledge of the biochemical modes of action and synergies of thiamine, pyridoxine, and cobalamin. CNS Neurosci Ther

Choi S, Hong DK, Choi BY, Suh SW. (2020) Zinc in the Brain: Friend or Foe? Int J Mol Sci.

Gröber U (2020) Brain nutrients: Cerebral metabolism and micronutrients

Narayanam H, Chinni SV, Samuggam S. (2021) The Impact of Micronutrients-Calcium, Vitamin D, Selenium, Zinc in Cardiovascular Health: A Mini Review. Front Physiol.

NHS (2024) Vitamins and Minerals

NIH. (2024) Zinc: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals

 

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