Vitamin B12, also sometimes referred to as cobalamin, is a crucial nutrient that plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. It is essential for the functioning of your brain, the production of DNA, and the synthesis of neurotransmitters. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that the body cannot produce on its own, so it must be obtained from food sources or supplements. In this guide, we are going to dive into the importance of vitamin B12, how much we need, how we can get it, the symptoms of a deficiency, and whether or not we should supplement.

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a complex vitamin that is made up of a cobalt ion surrounded by a corrin ring. It is an essential nutrient that is involved in several key functions of the body, including the metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids, the production of DNA, and the formation of red blood cells.

Vitamin B12 is also critical for maintaining healthy nerve cells and for the optimum functioning of your brain.

How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need?

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of vitamin B12 varies depending on your age, gender, and other factors. The following table shows the RDI for vitamin B12 according to age and gender:

AgeMale RDIFemale RDI
0-60.9 mcg0.9 mcg
7-121.8 mcg1.8 mcg
13-182.4 mcg2.4 mcg
18+2.4 mcg2.4 mcg
Pregnant WomenN/A2.6 mcg
Breastfeeding WomenN/A2.8 mcg

How Do We Get Vitamin B12?

Your body cannot produce vitamin B12 on its own. In other words, you must get this vital vitamin from food sources.

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. Plant based foods do not contain vitamin B12, with the exception of some fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, plant-based milks, and nutritional yeast. The body can also absorb vitamin B12 from supplements and so forth.

If you eat a vegan diet you’re likely to require supplementation to meet your intake of vitamin B12.

Some examples of foods that are rich in vitamin B12 include:

  1. Shellfish
  2. Beef liver
  3. Fish (salmon, tuna, trout)
  4. Fortified breakfast cereals
  5. Fortified plant based milks (e.g. soy, almond, coconut)
  6. Fortified nutritional yeast
  7. Beef (e.g. mince, steak)
  8. Chicken
  9. Pork
  10. Cheese (swiss, feta, mozzarella)

Symptoms of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to several health issues, including anaemia, nerve damage and neurological problems. The symptoms of a B12 deficiency can vary, but may include fatigue, weakness, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, difficulty walking, depression, and memory problems. Long-term deficiency can lead to more severe symptoms, such as dementia and permanent nerve damage.

Should You Take Vitamin B12 Supplements?

For people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, or those who have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from food sources, supplementing may be essential to meet their daily requirements. Vitamin B12 supplements are generally considered safe and effective and there is no upper limit to the amount that can be consumed.

However, it is important to talk to your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen, as high doses of vitamin B12 can interact with certain medications and cause side effects.

In Conclusion

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of the nervous system and the production of red blood cells. It is found naturally in animal products, but can also be obtained from supplements or fortified foods.

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to several health issues, including anaemia and nerve damage. 

This really is a wonderful vitamin! So ensure your diet is rich in B12 filled foods or consider supplements to avoid a deficiency.

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