Vitamin B-12 is key to our vitality. This water-soluble micronutrient helps us maintain good cognitive function, energy levels, balance, metabolism, and mood.
When levels are healthy, you feel like Mistress of the Universe. When levels are low, you may start to feel a nagging fatigue, foggy-brained, constipated, experience tingling or numbness in your hands and feet, and might even show signs of mild depression. I mean if you’re constipated and your feet are numb, who wouldn’t be a bit depressed?
Why is B-12 So Important?
Imagine the intricacies of our different systems and how they communicate. Vitamin B-12 is essential for this communication. Also called cobalamin, B-12 helps with healthy red blood cell production, digestion, proper nerve function and DNA synthesis. The average adult should get 2.4 micrograms a day. Food sources and supplements are important as B-12, like most vitamins, is not made in our bodies.
Do You Think You Have a Deficiency?
You may be at risk for a deficiency if your daily diet is low in B-12 foods or you take heartburn drugs (Nexium, Zantac, etc.), which reduce acid production in the stomach. Stomach acid is crucial for proper absorption of B-12. Conditions that affect your small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or a parasite can also compromise your B-12 absorption. Being over 50, or adhering to a strict vegetarian or vegan diet can also put you at risk as most food sources of B-12 are animal-based.
Symptoms of Deficiency
Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
A smooth tongue
Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas
Tingling in hands and feet
Sources of B-12
Foods that deliver B-12 are animal products like beef liver, red meat, fish, eggs, poultry, and dairy products. Strict vegetarians and vegans are at a high risk for developing a B12 deficiency if they don’t eat grains that have been fortified with the vitamin or take a vitamin supplement. People who have stomach stapling or other forms of weight-loss surgery are also more likely to be low in vitamin B12 as these procedures can sometimes interfere with the body’s ability to extract vitamin B12 from food.
What amounts do you need?
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average daily U.S. Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is:
for people age 14 and older, 2.4 mcg
for adult and adolescent pregnant females, 2.6 mcg
for adult and adolescent lactating females, 2.8mcg
People over 50 years of age should consume vitamin B12-fortified foods, or take a vitamin B12 supplement. Supplement dose recommendations for this age group are typically 25-100 mcg per day via pills or sublingual.
A standard multivitamin delivers 6 micrograms.
If you think you might be at risk for a deficiency, doctors recommend taking 50 mcg as part of a B-complex supplement that also contains a full spectrum of B vitamins, including biotin, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.
For more information on foods with vitamin B12 here’s a sampling:
- Beef liver: 1 ounce: 20 micrograms (over 300 percent DV)
- Sardines: 3 ounces: 6.6 micrograms (over 100 percent DV)
- Atlantic mackerel: 3 ounces: 7.4 micrograms (over 100 percent DV)
- Lamb: 3 ounces: 2.7 micrograms (45 percent DV)
- Wild-caught salmon: 3 ounces: 2.6 micrograms (42 percent DV)
- Nutritional yeast: 1 tablespoon: 2.4 micrograms (40 percent DV)
- Feta cheese: 0.5 cup: 1.25 micrograms (21 percent DV)
- Grass-fed beef: 3 ounces: 1.2 micrograms (20 percent DV)
- Cottage Cheese: 1 cup: 0.97 micrograms (16 percent DV)
- Eggs: 1 large: 0.6 micrograms (11 percent DV)