Vitamin B12: The Important Nutrient You Should Never Forget

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(  I often get asked many questions about taking supplements to filling the gaps of nutrient shortfalls in the diet.  The most common vitamins and minerals that people "fall in love with" these days include Multivitamins, Vitamins A, C, D and E, Calcium, Iron and/or natural substances like omega 3 or omega 3-6-9 essential fatty acids.  But, how about Vitamin B12?  Have you ever thought whether you're getting enough of this important nutrient?  I am sure many of you have heard of Vitamin B12, but may be some of you are unclear as to the role Vitamin B12 plays in keeping us healthy.

Role of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in maintaining our health through:

  • participating in the manufacture of red blood cells
  • supporting normal function of the nerve cells
  • manufacturing the insulation materials around the nerve cells 
  • involvement in bone cell activity
  • helping your cells to metabolize carbohydrate, proteins and fats
  • forming DNA (genetic materials for all cells)

How munch Vitamin B12 do we need?

The requirement of vitamin B12 varies with age and gender:

Age in years Daily Vitamin B12 Needs* (micrograms/day) Upper Limit* for Vitamin B12
Men and Women 19 years or older 2.4 Not Yet Establish
Pregnant Women 19 or older 2.6 Not Yet Establish
Breastfeeding Women 19 or older 2.8 Not Yet Establish
*Source: Dietitians of Canada

Who is at risk of developing Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

  • Strict Vegetarians (Vegans) - fruit and vegetables contain very little of this vitamin, a diet lacking animal products can lead to deficiency
  • People with stomach or intestinal problems - Vitamin B12 requires a unique protein secreted by the stomach (intrinsic factor) for good absorption.  People with stomach problems or those who have had surgeries to the stomach or intestinal areas may have a risk of developing deficiency due to the lack of intrinsic factors
  • Aging - as we get older, our body's ability to absorb Vitamin B12 declines even though we consume foods that rich in this vitamin 

What are the symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

- Anemia - Shortness of breath
- Sore tongue - Easy bruising or bleeding (include bleeding gums)
- Weight loss - Forgetfulness or confusion
- Depression - Tingling or numbness in fingers and toes
- Chronic fatigue - Hallucination

Food Sources of Vitamin B12

The food that is rich in Vitamin B12 are meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, egg, milk, cheese and milk products.  Some of the soy and grain products are fortified with this vitamins, which is good news to vegans.  The following list shows you some of the food sources of this vitamin:

  • Sardines - 10.1 mcg/4 oz
  • Salmon - 6.58 mcg/4 oz
  • Lamb - 2.45 mcg/4 oz
  • Shrimp - 1.69 mcg/4 oz
  • Halibut - 1.55 mcg/4 oz
  • Scallops - 1.47 mcg/4 oz
  • Beef - 1.44 mcg/4 oz
  • Yogurt - 1.37 mcg/4 oz
  • Cod - 1.18 mcg/4 oz
  • Milk - 0.55 mcg/125 ml
  • Egg - 0.55 mcg each

Check out this Vitamin B12 boosting recipe: Pan Fried Salmon with Lemon Capers Sauce.

If you feel you may not be getting enough of this vitamin, you might want to talk to a dietitian regarding ways to improve your intake of Vitamin B12.

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HealthCastle, founded in 1997, is the largest online nutrition community run by Registered Dietitians. Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or dietitian. Information and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.