Are you getting enough Vitamin B-12? Here’s Why You Need It…
There are very few reasons to take supplements, but getting enough Vitamin B-12 may be one of the most important.
While it may not be high on your radar (as far as nutrition goes), it is essential to some of the body’s most important functions, such as:
- Forming red blood cells
- Maintaining nerve function
Doctors don’t routinely test for Vitamin B-12 levels, so vitamin B-12 deficiency can go unnoticed. But over time, a deficiency may cause problems such as:
➡ Nerve damage
➡ Problems with memory and reasoning
➡ Production of DNA and RNA, the body’s genetic material
➡ Works closely with vitamin B9 (also called folate or folic acid) to help make red blood cells and to help iron work better in the body.
But it’s easy to avoid Vitamin B-12 deficiency.
What’s important is to ask “are you getting enough Vitamin B-12?” of yourself, recognize your risk and take measures to avoid becoming deficient.
How Vitamin B-12 works
Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally found in animal products. Some fortified foods, dietary supplements, and medications contain a synthetic version of Vitamin B12.
➡ When you eat meat, fish, eggs, or dairy products, B12 is released (separated) from protein by hydrochloric acid and enzymes in the stomach.
➡ Synthetic Vitamin B12 is already in this released (free) form.
➡ “Free” Vitamin B12 then combines with a substance called “intrinsic factor” that is secreted by the stomach cells.
➡ This “intrinsic factor” is what enables B-12 to be absorbed from the small intestine.
So, Are You Getting Enough Vitamin B12?
Most women get the recommended daily amount in their diets:
- 2.4 micrograms (mcg) for most adults
- 2.6 mcg for pregnant women
- 2.8 mcg for women who are breastfeeding
However, your risk is higher if any of the following applies:
You are age 50 or older
- With age, your stomach cells become less efficient and secrete less hydrochloric acid, which means you absorb less B12.
You have altered gastrointestinal function
- People who have gastrointestinal disorders like Celiac Disease or Crohn’s Disease or who have had weight-loss (bariatric) surgery may secrete too little hydrochloric acid or Intrinsic Factor.
You’re a strict vegan
- If you’ve given up all animal products, you should consider using fortified cereals or nutritional yeasts or taking a Vitamin B12 supplement.
It’s especially important that vegan women who are pregnant and planning to breastfeed exclusively talk to their medical team about getting the adequate amount of Vitamin B12 for both themselves and their infants.
- Babies who don’t get any vitamin B12 can develop a deficiency and may sustain permanent neurological damage
You take certain medications
Two types of medications for ulcers and gastric reflux (called “proton-pump inhibitors”) suppress the release of stomach acid necessary to free dietary vitamin B12.
The most common are:
- Prilosec (Omeprazole)
- Prevacid (Lansoprazole)
And H2 blockers:
- Tagamet (cimetidine)
- Pepcid (famotidine)
- Zantac (ranitidine)
In addition, there’s some evidence that the diabetes drug Metformin (Glucophage) may reduce vitamin B12 absorption when used for several years.
If you have Pernicious Anemia:
This autoimmune condition affects the stomach’s ability to produce Intrinsic Factor, so you cannot absorb vitamin B12 through your digestive system.
- A vitamin B12 deficiency may go undiagnosed because many of the symptoms mirror those of minor illnesses or chronic conditions.
Symptoms indicating you’re not getting enough Vitamin B12 include:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- Numbness and tingling in the hands and feet are also common in people with diabetes and spinal stenosis.
If you have any of those symptoms — especially if you have a low red blood cell count — consider this: How is your diet? Are you getting enough Vitamin B-12?
Make an appointment to see your doctor about blood tests to confirm or rule out a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Preventing B12 deficiency
The recommended daily amount of B-12 for men and women over the age of 14, according to the Food & Nutrition Board, is:
- Males: 2.4 mcg
- Females: 2.4 mcg
- Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg
- If breastfeeding: 2.8 mcg
If you’re at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, the following can provide some protection:
- Even the lowest doses of B12 supplements are many times the recommended dietary allowance. Doses up to 1,000 mcg, though unnecessary, probably aren’t harmful.
- Some toothpaste delivers vitamin B12 to the bloodstream through the mucous membranes lining the mouth.
- If you have had weight-reduction (bariatric) surgery or have Pernicious Anemia, Celiac Disease, or Crohn’s disease, B12 injections may be recommended.
- Many kinds of cereal, soy products, and yeasts are fortified with B12.
Here’s a list of the top 10 foods with the highest Vitamin B12 content:
1. Shellfish: Cooked Clams, Oysters, Mussels
2. Beef Liver, Liverwurst sausage, Chicken Liver Pate
3. Fish: Mackerel, Smoked Salmon, Herring, Canned Tuna, Sardines, Oysters, Crab, Salmon, Mackerel, Trout ***(Get Low-Sodium, Packed in Water, Not Oil)
4. Crustaceans: Crab, Crayfish, Shrimp, Lobster
5. Fortified Soy Products: Silken Tofu, Light Plain Soymilk
6. Fortified Cereals (All-Bran, etc.)
7. Red Meat: Beef, Lamb
8. Low Fat Dairy: Skim Milk, Non-Fat Yogurt, Reduced Fat Milk (2%) Whole Milk and Full-Fat Yogurt
9. Cheese: Swiss, Reduced Fat Mozzarella (Low Moisture, Part Skimmed), Parmesan, Feta
10. Eggs (Chicken, Goose, Duck, Turkey, Quail)
Sometimes it’s not possible to access, afford or make the time to eat properly. If you need help choosing healthy, low cost or faster-to-fix foods, please drop me a line using the Get In Touch link at the top of the page.