Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin that keeps our body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps produce the very building blocks of all living things (DNA). While most people get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, not everyone absorbs it as well, which requires some form of supplementation. The best way to increase absorption is to supplement it with other B vitamins.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
While vitamin B12 deficiency can be avoided with proper dietary choices and due to the fact that our livers store a supply that lasts for several years, it’s more prevalent than you may realize. If you make meat, eggs, and dairy products a part of your diet, you will likely have ample supply of B12. However, a varied diet rich in vitamin B12 does not guarantee a deficiency will not occur.
According to data from the Tufts University Framingham Offspring Study, 40 percent of people between 26 and 83 years old have plasma B12 levels in the low normal range. At those levels, neurological symptoms can occur. 9 percent had outright deficiency, and 16 percent exhibited “near deficiency.” Most surprising to the researchers was the fact that low B12 levels were as common in younger people as they were in the elderly.
Here are a few risks:
Pernicious anemia – This blood disease destroys the cells in your stomach that help with vitamin B12 absorption.
Digestive problems – If you suffer from digestive issues such as celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. Bacteria growth in the small intestine, or a parasite in the digestive tract can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency as well.
Vegan/vegetarian diet – Vegans remove most foods that are rich in vitamin B12, since they are generally from animal-based products, unless you are talking about B12-fortified foods like breakfast cereals. This means a supplement with B12 is highly recommended.
Vitamin B12 and Pain
Vitamin B12 deficiency can have painful consequences. Since it works with folate to create the protective coating around your nerves, sufficient levels of vitamin B12 helps ease or avoid pain.
According to a 2012 case report from the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, a 62-year-old man admitted to the hospital was experiencing numbness and the feeling of “pins and needles” in his hands. He also had a yellow complexion, severe joint pain, difficulty walking, and became short of breath. He was diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency.
How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need?
If you are not experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms and want to be sure you are getting adequate amounts of B12, the recommended daily amounts vary based mainly on age. The National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements suggests the following:
- Birth to 6 months: 0.4 mcg
- Infants 7‚Äì12 months: 0.5 mcg
- Children 1‚Äì3 years: 0.9 mcg
- Children 4‚Äì8 years: 1.2 mcg
- Children 9‚Äì13 years: 1.8 mcg
- Teens 14‚Äì18 years: 2.4 mcg
- Adults: 2.4 mcg
- Pregnant women of any age: 2.6 mcg
- Breastfeeding women of any age: 2.8 mcg