Have you ever wondered, how much B12 should one take? Vitamin B12 is present in many different foods and most people do meet their recommended daily requirement. However, there are some individuals who are at an increased risk of a deficiency and should take a vitamin B12 supplement on a regular basis.
Why do our bodies need vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is one of the water-soluble vitamins. It has many crucial functions in the human body.
Our bodies require vitamin B12 in order to:
- properly form red blood cells
- maintain a healthy nervous system
- produce DNA
Food Sources of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in many foods derived from animal sources. Many foods are now being fortified with vitamin B12 in order to ensure that most individuals are meeting their daily requirements for this nutrient.
Examples of vitamin B12 containing foods:
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Fortified non-dairy milk beverages
- Some brands of nutritional yeast
Who should take a supplement?
Vegetarian and Vegans
Vegetarians and vegans who do not take vitamin B12 supplements are at risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency. This is due to the fact that plant based foods do not naturally contain vitamin B12.
Individuals who have had GI surgery
People who have had surgery on the gastrointestinal tract may be at risk of developing many nutrient deficiencies, including a vitamin B12 deficiency. They should be monitored closely prior to and after surgery to make sure they are maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B12.
The elderly are another group who are at risk for deficiency of this vitamin. This is because vitamin B12 is bound to the protein found in foods. Vitamin B12 is separated from protein by the secretion of hydrochloric acid, which is produced by the stomach. Many older individuals produce inadequate amounts of hydrochloric acid, which prevents their bodies from properly utilizing vitamin B12 from food or from oral supplements. In fact, vitamin B12 deficiency is thought to be one of the primary causes of dementia in the elderly. Vitamin B12 deficiency is also the only known reversible cause of dementia. Many older adults require vitamin B12 shots in order to maintain adequate levels of vitamin B12.
Individuals with Pernicious Anemia
Individuals with pernicious anemia are another group who are at a very high risk for a vitamin B12 deficiency. The human body requires a substance known as intrinsic factor to absorb vitamin B12 from food and oral supplements. Intrinsic factor is produced by the stomach. However, some individuals are unable to produce intrinsic factor, which will lead to vitamin B12 deficiency if left untreated. Individuals with pernicious anemia can easily maintain proper levels of vitamin B12 with regular vitamin B12 shots.
Vegans cannot get B12 from food
It was formally believed that vitamin B12 was biologically available in plant foods. However, there has been extensive research done which suggests that the following foods should not be relied on as sources of vitamin B12:
- fermented foods
These foods actually contain little or no vitamin B12. Many of them contain analogs of vitamin B12, which are not usable by humans. In fact, many of these analogs can actually interfere with our body's ability to properly process vitamin B12.
Vegetarians and especially vegans need to pay careful attention to their vitamin B12 intake. They require a regular vitamin B12 supplement in order to avoid a deficiency of this critical nutrient.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency
Some symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- impaired nervous system
How Much B12 Should One Take?
In answer to the question, how much B12 should one take, the National Institutes of Health states that most adults require 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 each day.
Vitamin B12 can be supplemented either orally or through regular injections.
How much vitamin B12 you will need to take on a regular basis will vary depending on whether you prefer to take it every day or only once per week.
Choose one of the following options:
- take a daily supplement that contains at least 10 mcg of vitamin B12
- take a weekly sublingual supplement that provides 200 mcg of vitamin B12
- take 2 Tablespoons of Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula Nutritional Yeast every day
Please speak to your doctor if you believe that you may require vitamin B12 injections. Vitamin B12 injections can have minor side effects, so it is preferable to obtain your vitamin B12 through food and oral supplements whenever possible.