Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is found naturally in animal foods. Additionally, it can be added to diets and supplements.
Vitamin B12 is required for red blood cell and DNA formation. It is also essential for brain health and nerve cell function and growth. Learn more about this vitamin and its adverse effects when consumed in excess.
Nutrition And Food Sources Of Vitamin B12
According to research, the best natural sources of Vitamin B12 are meat, notably organ meat such as animal livers or kidneys. “100 grammes of lamb liver, for example, contains around 3700 % of the reference daily intake (RDI) for vitamin B12.
Certain fish, such as tuna, sardines, trout, and shellfish (clams), are also high in B12, with amounts reaching up to 7000 % of the RDI in just 20 clams. “For those who prefer eggs, two whole eggs (with yolks) can fulfill about half of the RDI,” says Dr. Jayant Arora, Director & Unit Head, Fortis Bone & Joint Institute, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, who believes vegetarians, particularly in India, have far fewer options than fall far short of meat and fish sources.
“Foods like fortified yeast or fortified cereal are not widely available. However, dairy can come to the rescue – a glass of whole milk or a large serving (250gms) of yogurt can supply about 45 to 50% of our daily needs (RDI),” he adds.
Pro Tip: Other foods, unless specifically fortified with Vitamin B12, are not considered very rich sources.
Benefits Of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps maintain the health of your blood and nerve cells and aids in the production of DNA, the genetic material found in all of your cells. Vitamin B12 also prevents megaloblastic anemia, a disease of the blood that causes fatigue and weakness. “Vitamin B12 serves various vital functions, including red blood cell maturation, nerve function, DNA synthesis, and brain function. Unfortunately, we cannot produce it ourselves and must thus consume it,” adds Dr. Jayant.
Pro Tip: If you are pregnant or a new mom, talk to your doctor about having additional supplements of vitamin B12.
Signs Of Vitamin B 12 Deficiency
Our body accumulates 1,000 to 2,000 times as much vitamin B12 as we consume on a daily basis, thus the onset of vitamin B12 deficient symptoms can take several years. Despite the fact that vitamin B12 can be found in a range of meals, some people may experience vitamin B12 shortage or insufficiency due to a lack of proper food.
“Since our daily requirements are very low (RDI is about 2.5 micrograms) it can take a while before we run out of stored vitamin B12. Symptoms are generalised and can include tingling and numbness over hands and feet, in certain conditions it can lead to anemia, fatigue, weakness, body aches, low attention span, etc,” explains Dr. Jayant.
Other signs of vitamin B12 insufficiency include balance issues, melancholy, confusion, dementia, memory loss, and mouth or tongue discomfort. Vitamin B12 insufficiency in babies is characterised by failure to thrive, delays in completing standard developmental milestones, and megaloblastic anemia.
Pro Tip: People who suffer from certain types of headaches are more likely to have low B12 levels, according to some studies. They can check for supplements to be included or diet recommendations.
Side Effects Of Vitamin B 12
Vitamin B-12 supplements are generally regarded as safe when taken at the recommended doses. High vitamin B-12 doses, such as those required to treat a deficiency, may result in:
- sickness and vomiting
- Diarrhea and upset tummy
- Weakness or weariness
- sense of tingling in the hands and feet
Pro Tip: Vitamin B 12 is water-soluble and therefore excess B 12 is stored in the liver. “There is no upper limit and so far, overdose has not been medically defined,” concludes Dr. Jayant.
Q. What Is Vitamin B12 Good For?
A. Vitamin B 12 is beneficial for nerve function, energy metabolism, brain function, and red blood cell maturation. Vitamin B-12, also known as the Extrinsic Factor, links to another molecule in the stomach known as the Intrinsic Factor before being absorbed by the body. As a result of their inability to absorb B12 from their diet, individuals with Intrinsic Factor deficiency develop an uncommon form of anaemia known as Pernicious Anaemia (pernicious meaning fatal).
Q. Is It Good To Have Vitamin B12 every day?
A. The good news is that because there are no upper limits, exceeding the RDI on a daily basis is unlikely to result in an overdose. This makes it reasonable if the B 12 comes primarily from our food. If one is using B 12 supplements, however, daily B 12 may not provide any additional benefits once our body supplies are depleted. People with Intrinsic Factor deficiency, who cannot absorb B12 from their diet, require daily mega-doses of B12 for the rest of their lives. Others, such as pregnant women, the elderly or infirm, and toddlers, have a higher daily requirement of approximately 6 micrograms per day.
Q. What Foods Have High Vitamin B 12?
A. As previously stated, vegan and vegetarian choices, particularly in India, are deficient in B12. As a result, it is frequently simpler and easier to simply take a supplement. These are mostly synthetic and so suitable for vegetarians. They are also commonly accessible in the form of lozenges, tablets, capsules, and injections.
Vitamin B12 can be found in a variety of foods such as Beef, pork, ham, poultry, lamb, fish, particularly haddock and tuna, dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and some nutritional yeast products. Additionally, certain plant milk and breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B12.
Q. What Is The Best Time To Take Vitamin B12?
A. Since it plays a role in energy metabolism and nerve function, it’s best to take vitamin B 12 in the morning.
Vitamin B12 Foods Sources For A Healthy Life
Ever wondered what is the fuss about vitamin B12? And why does every time you go to the doctor suggest getting some blood work done to check the vitamin B12 levels? Although not a macronutrient, the effects of vitamin B12 on the body are important and its deficiency can have adverse effects on the body. On that note, here’s everything you needed to understand about vitamin B12, where to find it, its effect on health and how to make sure you consume adequate levels of it on a daily basis.
What Is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin is one of the 8 types of vitamin B. It is associated with the building of DNA, regulating the health of nerve cells and production of red blood cells in the body. Studies have proven that vitamin B12 is also important for mental health and its deficiency is related to depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, etc. Vitamin B12 binds to the protein in our food and is broken down into its free form in our stomach from where it is absorbed further into the small intestine.
Pro Tip: Supplements contain B12 in their free form making it easier for the body to absorb it. There are no toxicities associated with the overconsumption of vitamin B12 as it is a water-soluble nutrient.
Effects of Vitamin B12 on Health
Consuming optimum amounts of vitamin B12 has a lot of effects on the body. Scroll to find the most important ones.
- Cardiovascular Health
One of the leading causes of heart diseases in humans is homocysteine, an amino acid that is useful in the making of proteins. When in excess, it is associated with the formation of clots and impairs normal blood vessel functions. Vitamin B12 helps with breaking down homocysteine and converting it into other substances that are more useful for the body.
- Cognitive Functions
High quantities of the chemical homocysteine are also associated with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive decline. Although more research is needed to prove how vitamin B12 counteracts its effects of it on cognitive functions, it is shown to have no adverse side effects.
- Nervous System Health
Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin is a neurotropic vitamin and contributes to the maintenance of a healthy nervous system. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 are related to several neurological diseases and can improve neurological conditions even when the deficiency is not visible.
Pro Tip:Vitamin B12 is important for preventing cardiovascular and cognitive damage to the body. Since no upper limit has been set for vitamin B12, it is alright to go up to 20 mcg dosages.
Vitamin B12 Deficiencies
Vitamin B12 levels in the body are detected by performing blood tests. Generally, the normal Vitamin B12 levels in a healthy individual range between 160 to 950 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). Anyone with levels of 200 and 300 pg/mL is considered susceptible to deficiency whereas those with vitamin B12 levels of less than 200 pg/mL are considered deficient. Vitamin B12 deficiencies can have serious implications on health.
Pro Tip:Vitamin B12 has been observed to have improved certain functions even when there are no visible signs of deficiency.
Natural Sources of Vitamin B12
There are plenty of natural sources of vitamin B12 that are available naturally for people to increase their levels via food instead of turning toward supplementation.
The following foods have the highest concentration of naturally occurring vitamin B12:
- Dairy Products
Milk, Swiss cheese, regular cheese (Feta cheese, parmesan cheese, and Mozzarella cheese), yogurt are some foods to consume for increasing your vitamin B12 levels. Yogurt, too, is rich in vitamins and adding a bowl of it to your diet can benefit you a lot.
- Animal Proteins
Vitamin B12 concentrations are high in organ meats like kidneys and livers of animals. Fishes like sardines, tuna, trout, salmon and clams are good sources of vitamin B12. Those who refrain from consuming animal meat can turn to eggs for their daily doses.
- Fortified Breakfast Cereal
Breakfast cereals like oatmeal and cornflakes are also rich in vitamin B12. Consuming the same as a parfait with yogurt is extra beneficial.
- Vegetables and Fruits
Fruits contain less than 5% of the daily recommended value of vitamin B12. However, many vegetables like spinach, beetroot, potatoes, mushrooms, and alfalfa are important sources of the same in vegetarians.
Pro Tip: When it comes to vitamin B12, animal protein is the best source. For vegetarians, it is recommended that they turn toward supplements to ensure they get their daily recommended quota of it.
FAQs: Vitamin B12
Q. What happens when vitamin B12 levels are low?
A. Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin is involved in a lot of bodily functions. One of the biggest telltale signs of a deficiency is feeling weak and tired more often than usual, which happens when someone suffers from a typical condition caused by vitamin B12 deficiency called megaloblastic anemia (a condition where the body produces under-developed red blood cells). Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are loss of appetite, unwarranted weight loss, pale appearance of the skin, experiencing heart palpitations, fogginess or loss of memory. Someone with this deficiency will also experience tingling or numbing in the hands and feet which is, in turn, an indication of nerve damage. In women, a deficiency of vitamin B12 can also lead to infertility.
Q. Do fruits contain Vitamin B12?
A. Unfortunately, fruits are not the best source of vitamin B12, they are rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber. However, certain fruits do contain small quantities of vitamin B12 like apples, bananas and certain berries. However, it is important to continue consuming fruits as a part of your daily diet as they are essential to meet other nutritional needs of the body. The best sources of vitamin B12 are fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products like cheese and yogurt.
Q. What is the most common cause of B12 deficiency?
A. Like most nutritional deficiencies, vitamin B12 shortage in the body also arises because of an unhealthy diet and unsustainable eating habits. Apart from not consuming a balanced diet, vitamin B12 deficiency is also observed in people who don’t consume meat. Hence, it is important for people who maintain a plant-based lifestyle to turn toward vitamin B12 supplements to bridge the gap in their nutritional needs. For a healthy adult, the daily recommended dose of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg. Eating food fortified with vitamin B12 is the quickest way to keep deficiency at bay. Fixing your gut is also another way to ensure that the vitamin B12 you consume is absorbed in the body.
Q. Does vitamin B12 thicken hair?
A. It is a known fact that vitamin B12 deficiency causes hair loss. Vitamin B12 is important for red blood cell formation that ultimately carries oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles. A lack of B12 means your hair follicles are unable to get the necessary nutrition for keeping the hair healthy, ultimately resulting in hair loss. Increasing your vitamin B12 dose or intake in food has been observed to have a direct result on hair growth. Many doctors suggest a starting dose of 3 mcg of vitamin B12 for hair-related problems.