This little vitamin is essential for good health, as it is responsible for many neural functions and even DNA production. Vitamin B12 can be consumed in a number of ways to ensure adequate health.
Nutritional Properties of Vitamin B12
B12 is a vitamin associated with protein. This vitamin, like most amino acids, is critical for healthy blood and neural functions. The B12 vitamin is unique from other B vitamins. While other B vitamins are excreted in the urine, thereby requiring a daily intake of it to prevent deficiency, B12 can be stored in the body for a long period of time. As such, B12 deficiencies are rare.
Sources of Vitamin B12
The vitamin is found naturally in foods from meat, dairy, and seafood, but it is also fortified in cereal and dairy alternatives like soy milk. Vegans can find B12 in kombucha tea, spirulina capsules, and nutritional yeast flakes. You can also take a basic multivitamin.
According to the National Institutes of Health, infants from the age of 1 to 3 should consume .9 micrograms a day. Children from 4 to 6 years should eat 1.2 micrograms. Those from the age of 9 to 13 should have 1.8 micrograms, and those 14 and older should get 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 all 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 subtle to severe side effects: mild effects include tiredness, headache, tingly skin, and pale skin. Severe symptoms are depression, memory loss, and even dementia. If you experience any of these symptoms, have your vitamin levels checked by a doctor.
Because B12 is found namely in animal protein, vegans must be careful to consume enough of it. Many take supplements just to be on the safe side. Those who underwent gastric bypass surgery should also be careful to get enough B12. The surgery removes a portion of the intestine, which is responsible for vitamin absorption. Therefore, take supplements as necessary and get vitamin levels checked by a doctor.