Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B Vitamins that our body needs to survive. Vitamin B12 is also referred to as cobalamin. Vitamin B12 is produced through the fermentation of selected microorganisms. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. This means that it dissolves in water and travels in our body through the bloodstream. Our body can store Vitamin B12 up to four years. This vitamin is needed to ensure the proper functioning of nerve tissue and brain cells. Any excess or unwanted amounts of Vitamin B12 are automatically secreted through urine. Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms are mostly found in older people, vegans, and vegetarians.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms can be hard to predict sometimes as the symptoms are common to general problems faced by people in day-to-day life. The vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms are:
- Feeling tired, fatigue or drowsy most of the time,
- Muscle aches and weakness,
- Joint pain and chronic lower back pain,
- Difficulty in breathing,
- Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to poor memory,
- Unable to concentrate well,
- Low Vitamin B12 can cause vision loss or blurry vision,
- It can lead to pale skin,
- It can cause lightheadedness,
- Mood changes may show symptoms of depression and anxiety,
- Poor dental health; frequent gum pain or mouth soreness,
- Having abnormal heart problems, such as palpitation,
- Poor appetite, digestive problems such as; nausea, indigestion, acidity diarrhea, constipation or stomach cramps,
- More serious issues result in neurological changes, such as numbness and tingling in the hands or feet.
- A very severe deficiency can cause more serious problems such as anemia, which is a condition of having low hemoglobin.
- A severe condition of lack of Vitamin B12 can also lead to tongue swelling or soreness.
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for Vitamin B12 are:
|Age Group||Micrograms (intake)|
|14 years and older||2.4 micrograms|
|Pregnant Women||2.6 micrograms|
|Lactating Women||2.8 micrograms|
|Older adults||2.6 micrograms|
Sources of Vitamin B12
The sources of foods that are rich in Vitamin B12 are:
- Beef Liver – 28 grams of beef liver holds 20 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Beef liver contains the highest amount of Vitamin B12 compared to other foods that have B12. Consuming beef liver can also help in reducing the risk of anemia as it is also high in iron and folate.
- Sardines – 85 grams of sardines has 6.6 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Sardines, after beef liver, contain the highest amount of Vitamin B12. Sardines are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which make the consumption of sardines very essential. Sardines also help in reducing inflammation and risk of cholesterol.
- Lamb – 85 grams of lamb meat has around 2.7 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Lamb is also one of the top foods that have high amounts of vitamin b12. Lamb meat is also rich in protein, iron, sulfate, selenium, and zinc. Selenium and zinc help in boosting one’s hair growth as well as immunity.
- Chicken and Turkey Liver – 75 grams of chicken liver has 12.6 micrograms of Vitamin B12 and turkey liver has 23.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12. They are also rich sources of protein and iron. Chicken and Turkey are also low on cholesterol and are thus recommended instead of the consumption of beef or lamb liver.
- Atlantic Mackerel – 85 grams of Atlantic mackerel has 7.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Atlantic mackerel is not only very high in Vitamin B12; they are also high in omega 3 fatty acids. Atlantic Mackerels are also low in cholesterol and mercury which makes them very healthy as well. Pregnant and lactating women are recommended to consume Atlantic Mackerels as they are low in mercury and high in Vitamin B12.
- Feta Cheese – Half a cup of feta cheese has 1.25 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Feta cheese is also rich in Vitamin B2 and calcium. Feta cheese is a great food alternative for vegetarians. Since feta cheese is also high in Vitamin B2, it helps in easing headaches and migraines.
- Cottage Cheese – 1 cup of cottage cheese has 0.95 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Cottage cheese is also high in protein. Thus, cottage cheese is a good choice for vegetarians who want to add more Vitamin B12 and protein in their diet.
- Wild Caught Salmon – 85 grams of wild caught salmon has 2.6 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Wild caught salmon is packed with Vitamin B12 as well as Vitamin D. They are also one of the richest sources of protein. Salmon is also low in mercury, and thus, beneficial for pregnant and lactating women as well. Salmon is also low in cholesterol and thus, older adults can consume it too.
- Fresh and Canned Tuna – Both fresh and canned tuna are rich in Vitamin B12. 75 grams of tuna has around 9.3 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Tuna is also rich in Vitamin D, protein, and omega 3 fatty acids. Tuna is also low on cholesterol and mercury and thus is beneficial for pregnant and lactating women as well as older adults.
- Eggs – 1 large egg has 0.6 micrograms of Vitamin B12. They are a great non-meat source of Vitamin B12. Eggs also contain choline which helps in facilitating liver function. However, eggs are high in cholesterol; thus, one should avoid consuming more than two eggs daily.
- Grass Fed Beef – 85 grams of grass-fed beef holds around 1.2 grams of Vitamin B12. Grass-fed beef is a healthier choice for non-vegetarians than grain fed beef. This is because grass-fed beef is low in cholesterol. It also has high amounts of protein, Vitamin A, and Vitamin E. Compared to grain fed beef, grass-fed beef also has cancer-fighting antioxidants, which makes it healthier.
- Nutritional Yeast – 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast has 2.4 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Nutritional yeast is a great source of Vitamin B12 for vegans and vegetarians. Just one tablespoon of nutritional yeast covers up the entire day’s requirement of B12. Nutritional yeast is fortified with Vitamin B12 and other B vitamins. Nutritional yeast is also considered to be a complete protein as it contains 9 amino acids that our body is unable to produce. Thus, one should include nutritional yeast in their diet.
- Fortified Milk and Yogurt – Fortified milk and yogurt are great sources of Vitamin B12 for vegetarians. Fortified milk and yogurt differ in their quantity of Vitamin B12. However, one should note that only fortified milk and yogurt contain B12. Thus, one should ensure the milk and yogurt they buy is fortified.
- Fortified Soy, Almond, Oat, or Rice Milk – For vegans, fortified plant-based milk are rich sources for Vitamin B12. Again, the amount of Vitamin B12 is different in different brands of fortified milk. However, 100 ml of any fortified plant-based milk contains about 15 micrograms of Vitamin B12. Fortified plant-based milk also contains Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Protein and Fibre which is essential for the human body.
Benefits of Vitamin B12
The benefits of vitamin B12 are:
- Vitamin B12 plays an important role in producing red cells as it eliminates the risk of anemia.
- Vitamin B12 helps in regulating and synthesizing DNA.
- It helps in the absorption of folic acid, which helps in eliminating the risk of cancer.
- Vitamin B12 also helps in reducing the risk of anemia.
- Vitamin B12 also helps in reducing the occurrence of depressed moods and anxiety.
- It helps in lowering neurological degeneration.
- Vitamin B12 helps in regulating blood cells and releasing energy.
- It also helps in digestion, thus, a person who is low on Vitamin B12 can have digestion disorders.
- Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to neurological and cardiological damage. Thus, it is important to do regular check-ups to make sure that you don’t have any vitamin b12 deficiency symptoms.
- Vegetarians and Vegans are at utmost risk for the deficiency of Vitamin B12.
- B12 deficiency can occur in conditions such as; HIV infection, pregnancy, poor nutrition, intestinal or stomach related problems, old age, and alcohol addiction. If you have any of these conditions, you should consider getting regular health screening for vitamin b12 deficiency symptoms.
- People who suffer from Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or parasite can also be at a risk of developing Vitamin B12 deficiency.
- If you are taking chewable Vitamin B12 tablets, it is important to chew it thoroughly before swallowing it. If you do not chew it well, the vitamin will not be absorbed in your body.
- Vitamin C can lead to a decrease in the amount of Vitamin B12 absorbed by the body. Thus, it is advisable to not consume large amounts of food rich in Vitamin C at least for one hour after taking in Vitamin B12 supplements or foods.
Myths and Facts
|Vitamin B12 is not an important vitamin and doesn’t lead to any health problems.||False. In fact, Vitamin B12 is also referred to as the energy vitamin of the body since it helps in the production of new cells. Thus, it is an important vitamin that enables functioning of our bodies and is essential for us to consume. It helps in the making of the DNA, and blood cells. It also plays a crucial role in the development of brain cells and immune system. Thus, it is important to make sure that one is not deficient of this vitamin. Lack of Vitamin B12 can lead to severe health issues ranging from weakness to anemia.|
|Vitamin B12 can be obtained from plant sources.||This is not true. Vitamin B12 is predominantly found in animal products like meat, fish, and eggs. It is also found in dairy products; however, the quantity of B12 is less in dairy compared to animal products. However, there are no sources of Vitamin B12 in plant foods, unless the products are fortified with Vitamin B12.|
|Anaemia and Vitamin B12 are not related.||This is not true. Vitamin B12 is needed to produce blood cells. Anaemia is a condition where there is a deficiency of red blood cells in the blood’s hemoglobin. Thus, deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to anemia.|
Frequently Asked Questions
- How is Vitamin B12 made?
Vitamin B12 is made by anaerobic microorganisms. Anaerobic microorganisms are bacteria that do not need oxygen to live. This anaerobic microorganism is found in the gastrointestinal lining of animals. This is the reason why animal livers have the most amount of Vitamin B12.
- Do edible algae have Vitamin B12?
Yes. Two types of edible algae (dried green, i.e. Enteromorpha sp. And purple algae, i.e. Porphyra sp.) have been found to contain active Vitamin B12. They are good sources of Vitamin B12 for vegetarians and vegans.
- Why are older adults more vulnerable to Vitamin B12 deficiency?
As we age, our body produces less acid. This, in turn, leads to less absorption of Vitamin B12 in our body. Thus, even though anyone can be deficient of Vitamin B12, older adults are more at risk for having this deficiency. Therefore, older adults must seek out for foods that have Vitamin B12 and even take supplements if necessary.
- Does Vitamin B12 help in the making of white blood cells? How do white blood cells help the human body?
Yes. Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role in the making of white blood cells. White blood cells are essential for the proper functioning of the immune system. Vitamin B12 deficiency cannot only lower one’s immunity, it can also lead to some immune system disorders.
- Can one overdose on Vitamin B12?
No, there is no known toxicity level for Vitamin B12, thus, one does not have to worry about overdosing on it. Excess Vitamin B12 is released from the body through urination. However, it is advisable to get your Vitamin B12 levels checked and consulting a doctor before taking B12 supplementation. If you do not have a B12 deficiency, make sure to take natural sources of Vitamin B12 instead of taking supplements.
- How do animals get Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is produced by anaerobic microorganisms that are present in the soil. Animals absorb this B12 from the soil since they eat plants or uncooked foods. Cows and sheep absorb Vitamin B12 made by the bacteria in their gut. Animals like pigs and chicken are fed animal meat (which already contains Vitamin B12) and thus, they get Vitamin B12 from those raw meats. Sometimes animals are fed with Vitamin B12 supplements to make them rich sources of B12.
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