Cobalt is a trace mineral that forms part of the structure of vitamin B12. The total amount of cobalt in your body is 1.1 mg. It is readily absorbed from your small intestine, and your liver stores most of your body’s cobalt.
Cobalt is essential to humans as well as to animals. It is the main constituent of cobalamin, also known as vitamin B12, that is basically cobalt’s biological reservoir. The activity and function of cobalt is essentially the same as vitamin B12. Cobalt also assists in regulating enzymes that break down proteins, including casein, phosvitin, and other phosphoproteins. Along with nickel and manganese, cobalt can be a good alternative for zinc in some enzymes.
- Help produce vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 aids in the performance of your nervous system and also affects the functioning of your other body systems as well as the metabolic processes of your body.
- Help your body use vitamin C. Vitamin C prevents scurvy and symptoms such as hair loss. Humans need large amounts of vitamin C in order to feel good and be well, and cobalt in helps your body use vitamin C and other nutrients from green vegetables, citrus fruits, and other natural foods.
- Help your body absorb iron. Cobalt, together with other elements including copper, can play a role in your body’s absorption of iron.
- Promote heart health. Cobalt can provide stability to cardiovascular systems.
- Help form hemoglobin. Cobalt is necessary for hemoglobin formation. It plays an analogous role to copper in ferroxidase and iron in hemoglobin.
- Help make thyroxine. Cobalt is a necessary cofactor for making the thyroid hormone thyroxine.
- Increase the number of red blood cells. Cobalt has also been used as a treatment for anemia that does not respond to other treatment, because it causes red blood cells to be produced.
The RDA for cobalt is 0.12 micrograms; the Tolerable Upper Limit is 1-2 micrograms; and toxic levels are greater than 30 milligrams.
Deficiency of cobalt is associated with digestive disorders, fatigue, poor circulation, myelin sheath damage, nerve damage, slow growth, goiter, and pernicious anemia. Symptoms of pernicious anemia include weakness and tingling in the arms and legs, sore tongue, nausea, appetite loss, weight loss, bleeding gums, balance problems, pale gums, lips, and tongue, confusion, headache, and poor memory.
Over 30 milligrams per day produces nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, and hot flushes. High doses of cobalt interferes with iodine uptake and therefore results in goiter and hypothyroidism. Ingestion of cobalt powder on a regular basis can cause a lung condition called pneumonociosis. Dermatitis has been reported on contact with cobalt. High amounts of cobalt for long periods of time could adversely affect your heart and might decrease fertility in men. Cobalt is added during processing of beer as a foam stabilizer. Congestive heart failure from cardiomyopathy has been reported in individuals who have consumed large quantities of beer.
You should be able to get all the cobalt you need from your daily diet. Cobalt is a major part of the structure of vitamin B12. Therefore, if you get enough vitamin B12, you will also get enough cobalt.
Cobalt is found widely in the environment. The amount of cobalt that is in foods is based on the amount of mineral that is in the soil where the food sources are grown. Good food sources of cobalt include:
- sea vegetables, such as hijiki
- flax seeds
- soy milk
- legumes, including adzuki beans, kidney beans, green beans
- nuts and seeds
- green leafy vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, cabbage, and lettuce
- cereals, such as oats and buckwheat
- shiitake mushrooms