Since Vitamin B12 is not made by the body, it has to be taken from animal-based foods or from supplements. And this should be done on a frequent basis, because the body doesn’t store vitamin B12 for a long time.
How Much Vitamin B12?
The answer depends on factors including your age, eating habits and medical conditions, and what medications being taken.
The average suggested amounts to be consumed, measured in micrograms (mcg), differ by age:
- Infants up to age 6 months: 0.4 mcg
- Babies age 7-12 months: 0.5 mcg
- Children age 1-3 years: 0.9 mcg
- Kids age 4-8 years: 1.2 mcg
- Children age 9-13 years: 1.8 mcg
- Teens age 14-18: 2.4 mcg (2.6 mcg per day if pregnant and 2.8 mcg per day if breastfeeding)
- Adults: 2.4 mcg (2.6 mcg per day if pregnant and 2.8 mcg per day if breastfeeding)
Vitamin B12 – Food Sources
Vitamin B12 can be found in animal foods, which have it naturally, or from items that have been fortified with it.
Sources of animal include dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, and poultry. If food fortified with B12 is being looked for, check the product’s Nutrition Facts label.
Vitamin B12 – Deficiency
This nutrient is found enough in most people in US. If not sure, then the doctor should be consulted for the requirement of blood test if needed to check level of Vitamin B12
It can become harder to absorb this vitamin with growing age. It can also happen because of past medical history such as weight loss surgery or another operation that removed part of the stomach, or if drinking heavily.
Chances for developing vitamin B12 deficiency are more if having:
- Atrophic gastritis, in which the stomach lining has thinned
- Pernicious anemia, which makes it difficult for the body to absorb vitamin B12
- Conditions affecting the small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or a parasite
- Immune system disorders, such as Graves’ disease or lupus
- Certain medications being consumed that interfere with the absorption of B12 which includes some heartburn medicines including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec OTC), pantoprazole (Protonix), and rabeprazole (Aciphex), H2 Blockers such as cimetidine (Tagamet) and famotidine (Pepcid AC); and certain diabetes medicines such as metformin (Glucophage).
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also happen if following a vegan diet that is not eating any animal products, including meat, milk, cheese, and eggs or a vegetarian who doesn’t eat enough eggs or dairy products to meet the vitamin B12 requirements. In both of those cases, fortified foods can be added to the diet or supplements can be taken to meet this need.
Pregnant or New Mom
If a pregnant woman is on a vegan or vegetarian diet, and plans to only breastfeed the baby, the doctor should be consulted before having a baby, so that a plan is in place for how to get enough vitamin B12 to keep the baby healthy.
The baby could have developmental delays and not thrive and grow like he should due to lack of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency – Symptoms
If having vitamin B12 deficiency, there is a chance of becoming anemic. No symptoms may be caused with mid deficiency. But if not treated, it may lead to symptoms such as:
- Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
- Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- A smooth tongue
- Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas
- Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
- Vision loss
- Mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioral changes
Vitamin B12 Deficiency – Treatment
If having pernicious anemia or having trouble in the absorption of vitamin B12, vitamin shots will be first required. These shots are to be kept taken, or taking high doses of a supplement by mouth, or getting it nasally after that.
Options are available if not eating animal products. The diet can be changed to include vitamin B12-fortified grains, a supplement or B12 injections, or a high-dose oral vitamin B12 if deficient.
Adults who are older and having a vitamin B12 deficiency will likely have to take a daily B12 supplement or a multivitamin that contains B12.
For most people, the problem is resolved by treatment. But, any nerve damage can be permanent that happened due to the deficiency
Vitamin B12 Deficiency – Prevention
Vitamin B12 deficiency cannot be prevented by most people by eating enough meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, and eggs.
If not eating animal products, or having a medical condition that restricts the wellness of the body to absorbs nutrients, vitamin B12 in a multivitamin or other supplement and foods fortified with vitamin B12 can be taken.
The doctor should be informed if choosing to take vitamin B12 supplements, so they can tell how much it may be needed, or making sure they won’t affect any medicines already being taken