What we need to know about Vitamin B12?
There are vitamins that are well-known and everybody knows that they're important for us, such as vitamin C. And there are ones which are as important as "popular vitamins", but many of us don't know about them. Vitamin B12 is such a one.
How much Vitamin B12 do we need?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient that is essential for the human body since it is responsible for supporting the body in making DNA, the genetic material of cells, and keeping the blood and nervous system healthy. As it's water soluble we have to top our supplies up every day, either from food or supplements.
Even babies (from birth to 6 months) need Vitamin B12, 0.4 mcg daily. The recommended daily amount increases with age: a 9-13 year old child needs 1.8 mcg, and above 14 years, we all need a daily 2.4 mcg.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anaemia, depression, and shortness of breath, memory loss, mood swings, disorientation, dementia and loss of appetite, weakness or chronic fatigue. As many people don’t consume enough of this vitamin or take more but can’t absorb it (due to digestive problems such as Crohn’s disease or stomach surgery,) the deficiency is more common than we think. The two groups that are most likely to have Vitamin B12 deficiency are vegans/vegetarians and older people. It’s very important for kids to get the daily amount of Vitamin B12 since a deficiency may cause problems with movement or a delay in reaching the developmental milestones.
Taking large amounts of folic acid may hide Vitamin B12 deficiency but cannot correct the damage caused by the inadequate amount of B12, so the amount of folic acid taken daily must be under 1000 mcg.
What foods to eat?
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in foods that are animal products, such as fish, milk, meat, eggs, or products that contain these. Good sources are meats, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs or some fortified breakfast cereals. Consuming an adequate amount of these, the daily need of B12 could be covered, and there is no need for supplements. It’s good to know that it’s not found in plants and fruits.
What helps to absorb Vitamin B12?
Naturally B12 in food is attached to a protein that must be removed in the stomach, then the Vitamin is transported to the small intestine and attached to a binding protein. Because of this a healthy digestive system is essential for absorbing Vitamin B12. In the case of a deficiency, to provide a fast treatment it’s suggested you take a few doses as a supplement, since this form doesn’t need the acid in the stomach to separate the vitamin. Too much alcohol (more than one serving a day for woman and two for men) leads to a decreased absorption too.
What is Vitamin B12 for in the body?
Our bodies need Vitamin B12 to make the genetic material of cells, even blood cells so it has an important role in keeping the blood system healthy, as well as the nervous system. It helps release energy from the food we eat and helps in processing folic acid. Due to its role in DNA production, it may play a role in preventing cancer.
Is too much Vitamin B12 dangerous?
There’s no enough evidence that too much B12 Vitamin could be harmful for humans, but it has the side effect of increasing the appetite. Toxicity of vitamin B12 is rare, but one form of the vitamin (cyanocobalamin) may cause eye conditions.
Vitamin B12 can interact or interfere with some medicines, such as some type of antibiotics, medicines for reflux, diabetes, or some medicines containing histamine.
Does pregnancy increase the need for Vitamin B12?
Yes. As this vitamin is water soluble, and the mother’s body supports this for the babies too, and this won’t change during lactation, as the baby gets it with breastfeeding.
About Vitamin B12 supplements
Only vegans or vegetarians, or people with digestive problems (or after weight-loss surgery) are supposed to take this Vitamin as a supplement, since it's water soluble and the surplus amount leaves the body, and a well-balanced diet provides the daily amount. Most of the multivitamins contain Vitamin B12 too. If taking a vitamin complex, check the label for the exact amount in it.
Best Vitamin B12 based dishes: