This little vitamin is essential for good health because it is responsible for many neural functions and even DNA production. Vitamin B12 can be consumed in several ways to ensure adequate health.
Nutritional Properties of Vitamin B12
B12 is a vitamin bound to the protein found in food. This vitamin, like most amino acids, is critical for healthy blood and neural functions. Unlike other B vitamins, which are excreted in the urine and require daily intake to prevent deficiency, B12 can be stored in the body for a long period of time. Consequently, B12 deficiencies are rare.
Sources of Vitamin B12
The vitamin is found naturally in foods from meat, dairy, and seafood, but it is also present in fortified cereals and dairy alternatives like soy milk. Vegans can find B12 in kombucha tea, spirulina capsules, and nutritional yeast flakes. You can also increase your daily intake by taking a basic multivitamin.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), infants from the age of 1 to 3 years should consume 0.9 micrograms a day. Children from 4 to 6 years should eat 1.2 micrograms, and those between the ages of 9 and 13 years should have 1.8 micrograms. The requirement for persons 14 years of age and older is 2.4 micrograms of B12. Pregnant and lactating women should get 2.8 micrograms. To put these amounts in perspective, the NIH states that one cup of yogurt contains 25% of the B12 daily recommendation. A serving of mollusks, liver, and ¾ cup of fortified cereal each provide at least 100% of the daily recommended value. Supplements can also provide 100% of the daily recommended value.
Because B12 is associated with blood health, anemia symptoms are correlated with B12 deficiency symptoms. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute explains that a B12 deficiency can manifest as subtle to severe signs: mild effects include tiredness, headache, and tingly or pale skin. Severe symptoms are depression, memory loss, and even dementia. If you experience any of these symptoms, have your serum vitamin levels checked by a doctor.
Because B12 is found primarily in foods rich in animal protein, vegans may want to consult their doctor to determine whether they should take a supplement to prevent a deficiency. Individuals who have undergone gastric bypass surgery should also be careful to get enough B12. Because the surgery removes a portion of the intestine where vitamin absorption takes place, these patients should have their serum vitamin levels monitored by their doctor and, if necessary, take a nutritional supplement.
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