Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that we need to help with red blood cell formation and the metabolism of every cell in our bodies.
In this article, I’m going to walk you through everything you need to know about Vitamin B12.
Here are some of the topics we’ll cover:
- What is it?
- Why Do We Need it?
- How Much Do You Need?
- How Can You Get It From Your Diet?
By the end of the article, you’ll understand why you need it, whether or not you’re getting enough, and how to incorporate B12-rich foods into your diet to make sure you get enough.
Let’s jump in.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a vitamin that everyone, from toddlers to the elderly, needs to stay fit and healthy.
It’s water-soluble and naturally present in many foods. There are also many B12-fortified foods to help people with dietary restrictions get their recommended amount per day.
Our bodies don’t naturally produce Vitamin B12, so we must get it from our diets.
It’s also commonly taken as a supplement.
Why Do We Need Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in our bodies.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is quite common, with studies finding that between 1.5 and 15% of the general population are B12 deficient.
There are multiple risks associated with B12 deficiency, such as anemia and neuropsychiatric symptoms.
In the next section, I’ll show you how much Vitamin B12 you should be getting, depending on your age.
How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need?
|0–6 months||0.4 mcg||0.4 mcg|
|7–12 months||0.5 mcg||0.5 mcg|
|1–3 years||0.9 mcg||0.9 mcg|
|4–8 years||1.2 mcg||1.2 mcg|
|9–13 years||1.8 mcg||1.8 mcg|
|14+ years||2.4 mcg||2.4 mcg||2.6 mcg||2.8 mcg|
SOURCE: National Institutes of Health
How Can You Get Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is not created naturally by our bodies like some other vitamins are, so we have to absorb it from food.
It’s found naturally in most animal products, like meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and dairy products.
Vitamin B12 isn’t as present in plant-based foods, so if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there’s a risk you may not be getting enough. Even vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs should be aware of how much B12 they’re getting.
However, as you’ll see, there are ways for anyone on a plant-based diet to ensure they get adequate amounts of B12.
What Foods are Rich In Vitamin B12?
As mentioned above, Vitamin B12 is present in most animal products.
Plant-based foods do not have any Vitamin B12, unless they’re fortified with it.
It’s essential to be aware of how much B12 the foods you eat have, as the bio availability can vary significantly between different foods. For example, a serving of poultry has 61-66% of your daily recommended intake, whereas eggs only have 9%.
Foods High in Vitamin B12
- Seafood like octopus and clams have the highest amount of B12
- 100 grams of liver has over 800% of your daily needs
- Fish like mackerel has 792% of your daily needs
- Poultry, eggs, and milk are all great sources of it
If you’re on a plant-based diet, it’s important to get your B12 from foods like:
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Nutritional yeast
- Rice milk
Even though it can be slightly more difficult to get Vitamin B12 on a vegetarian or vegan diet, there’s no need to worry. Well-balanced vegetarian diets are able to support normal growth and development.
It’s also worth noting that B12 is partially degraded during cooking and long periods of storage, so even if you regularly eat foods high in B12, it may be worth measuring exactly how much you get on a regular day to ensure you’re getting enough.
What are the Risks of B12 Deficiency?
There are a variety of risks associated with Vitamin B12 deficiency, so you must regularly get enough.
Risks for Babies and Children
If babies and infants have B12 deficiency (often because of a breastfeeding mother with inadequate B12 levels), symptoms can include lethargy, slowed developmental skills, and vomiting, among other things.
Bone Marrow Failure
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to bone marrow failure. However, if it’s found early enough, it can be easily treated through diet adjustments and B12 supplementation.
A lack of Vitamin B12 is a cause of pernicious anemia, which can cause permanent damage to organs and nerves if left untreated.
B12 deficiency has also been linked to memory problems. Research is being done into whether or not a lack of B12 is linked to Alzheimers disease and dementia, but currently, no conclusions have been made.
Should I Take Vitamin B12 Supplements?
Depending on your diet, age, and lifestyle, you may need to consider taking supplements, either as a standalone supplement or as part of a multivitamin.
Of course, if you can get the vitamin from your food, that’s ideal – but that’s not always possible.
If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough, speak to a qualified medical professional. They may recommend supplementation.
Scientific evidence so far shows that B12 taken orally is effective at helping people with B12 deficiency return to their regular levels of the vitamin.
B12 supplements are also recommended for breast feeding mothers who may not have enough B12, as this can affect both their health, and their child’s health.
Overall, B12 vitamin supplements are a safe and effective way to get your daily dose of B12 to ensure you stay healthy.
Vitamin B12 is used by our bodies to create red blood cells, and to keep our brains and nerves functioning as they should.
The first place you should be looking to get your daily B12 intake is your diet. The vitamin is naturally present in most animal products, and many plant-based foods are fortified with it.
If you’re concerned that you’re not getting enough, your first point of call should be your doctor. They may recommend B12 supplementation, which is a healthy and effective way to meet your daily needs.