The topic of Vitamin B12 has inserted its way into several of my conversations of late. Some people question whether a plant-based lifestyle produces a suitable amount of this vitamin to maintain one’s health.To my knowledge, there are no unfortified plant foods that can provide the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of B12. Therefore, this vitamin must be obtained through the consumption of fortified foods and or dietary supplements. Familiarity in regard to this vitamin plays an essential part in your ability to sustain your well-being.
Below is my knowledge on the subject. I have conducted a considerable amount of research over the years in regard to this vitamin; however, I am not a scientist or doctor. If any information needs correction, please feel free to comment.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin used to keep the nerve and blood cells working properly and aids in the production of DNA.
Where does Vitamin B12 come from?
It is found in a variety of animal products (meat, milk and eggs), is fortified in some foods and available in supplemental form (pills, lozenges/chewables, sprays, liquids, patches, nasal gel and shots).
B12 is produced naturally by bacteria.
These microscopic organisms are present in an animal’s gastrointestinal tract.
Animals do not manufacture B12. They do, however, have the ability to absorb the B12 produced by these bacteria.
Animals also obtain B12 through the consumption of: fecal matter, contaminated food and other animal products (meat, milk and eggs).
Some foods are fortified with B12. Those foods include some of the following: cereals, nutritional yeast, non-dairy milk, and soy-based products. Make sure to check labels for fortification.
How do humans absorb B12?
The absorption of this vitamin begins in the stomach. B12 separates from the protein (food) it’s attached to by the stomach’s hydrochloric acid. It then combines with another protein, called intrinsic factor, which is also produced by the stomach. The intrinsic factor allows B12 to be absorbed in the intestines.
Are you at risk for B12 deficiency?
Most people get enough B12 through the foods they eat. However, there are conditions that may hamper its absorption and lead to deficiency. They include:
– people diagnosed with Crohn’s or Celiac disease
– those who have had prolonged use of certain medications (anti-acids/H2 blockers)
– older adults (over 50, the body produces less hydrochloric acid and it becomes difficult for the breakdown and absorption of B12 that is present in animal-based foods)
– people diagnosed with Pernicious anemia (the body’s inability to make intrinsic factor)
– those who have had gastrointestinal surgery (weight loss /stomach surgery)
– vegans and vegetarians
Symptoms of B12 deficiency
sore tongue or mouth
weight loss/loss of appetite
megaloblastic anemia *
tingling in the hands and feet
problems with balance
poor memory (possible links to Dementia/Alzheimer’s. From my research, the jury is out on these and the subject is open to scientific scrutiny)
How much B12 should one get?
It would vary depending on what B12 issues are present (if any). Seek the advice of a qualified physician if supplementation is required.
Most people get enough B12 through the foods they eat. Below is a table with the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of B12 established by the Food and Nutrition Board at The Institute of Medicine of The National Academies.
|Birth to 6 months||0.4 mcg|
|Infants 7–12 months||0.5 mcg|
|Children 1–3 years||0.9 mcg|
|Children 4–8 years||1.2 mcg|
|Children 9–13 years||1.8 mcg|
|Teens 14–18 years||2.4 mcg|
|Pregnant teens and women||2.6 mcg|
|Breastfeeding teens and women||2.8 mcg|
If supplementation is required, what forms of B12 should be taken?
There are four forms of this vitamin: Adenosylcobalamin, Cyanocobalamin, Hydroxocobalamin and Methylcobalamin.
Cyanocobalamin and Methylcobalamin are more commonly known and consumed by the general public. There is considerable debate over which of these two supplements are healthiest, which have more absorbability and which are more effective in the long-term. Do your research and consult a qualified physician to determine which form is right for you.
What B12 blood tests are necessary?
See The top 10 blood tests for vegans and vegetarians to determine what tests are necessary to check your B12 levels. If your health insurance is similar to mine, you will probably have to fight for most of these tests.
*I was diagnosed with megaloblastic anemia many years ago whilst a card-carrying omnivore. I am more in tune and on top of my nutrition since converting to a plant-based lifestyle and no longer test positive for this condition.
I take a daily B12 lozenge.
Do you supplement for B12? Please leave a comment…