What is cobalt?

Cobalt is a trace element, present in the body in small amounts (about 1 milligram). It is the active center of coenzymes called cobalamins, an essential trace dietary mineral for all animals and an active nutrient for bacteria, algae and fungi. Cobalt also participates in the biotin-dependent Krebs-cycle, the process that the body uses to break down sugars into energy. It is not considered essential as a separate nutrient, since it is needed above all as part of B12, which is itself essential.



What is the function of cobalt?

Cobalt is an integral part of vitamin B12 and therefore essential for the function of cells. Cobalt is also involved in the production of red blood cells and the production of antibacterial and antiviral compounds that prevent infections. It also plays a key role in the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates as well as the synthesis of proteins and conversion of folate in their active form. In the nervous system, cobalt is responsible for preventing demyelination, which is a condition that results in damage to the membrane that covers the nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Such prevention ensures continuance of efficient transmission of nerve impulses.



Which foods are rich in cobalt?

Cobalt is present in foods such as liver, kidney, meat, oysters, clams, fish, milk, fermented soy products and beer. Some small amounts of cobalt are also available in certain vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, spinach, figs and legumes. Foods rich in vitamin B-12 are the only source of cobalt actively used by the body.



What is the recommended daily requirement of cobalt?

Typically, the recommended daily intake for an adult is between 5 and 8 mg of cobalt per day. If needed, cobalt supplements are best taken in the form of vitamin B-12. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should always consult with a doctor before taking any mineral supplements in order to prevent harm to themselves and their infants.



What are the consequences of cobalt deficiency?

A shortage of cobalt is associated with that of a deficiency in vitamin B12. Once of the most obvious consequences is pernicious anemia, which is a disorder, characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, nausea, weight loss, confusion, and headaches. Also if symptoms persist for a longer period of time, cobalt deficiency can cause  neurological disorders , nerve damage, loss of memory , mood changes and psychosis . In the worst case scenario, it can be fatal.



What are the consequences of excessive cobalt intake?

Excessive cobalt intake can cause heart problems, including congestive heart failure. It can also lead to excessive production of red blood cells (polycythemia), with increased risk of blood clot formations and stroke. High levels of cobalt may produce a goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland) and reduce the overall function of the thyroid. It can also cause hyperglycemia, which is a condition that involves increased blood sugar levels.



It is useful to take cobalt in the form of supplements and nutritional supplements?

Cobalt may be prescribed in the form of vitamin B12 to treat pernicious anemia. In general, however, for guaranteed sufficient quantities, it is best to rely on a healthy, well balanced diet.