How Do I Know If I Have A Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is found in many food sources. But if you dont produce enough of a protein called intrinsic factor that helps your body absorb vitamin B12, or if you dont eat enough vitamin B12 foods, you may develop a deficiency.If left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, nerve damage and more, warns Taylor.
You may also have a higher risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency if:
- Youre 65 or older. Vitamin B12 deficiency affects up to 43% of older adults.
- You experience mood swings or personality changes.
Description Of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, comes in the form of a red crystalline compound that has earned it the nickname red vitamin. The name cobalamin refers to its cobalt content, which is unique among vitamins.
A vitamin is a non-caloric organic substance, essential for our metabolism and not produced by our body.
Vitamin B12 is water-soluble and is therefore rapidly eliminated in the urine it is resistant to air and heat
The Best B12 Vitamin Supplements And Bioavailability
Vitamin B12 is found in animal-based foods, some of which include beef liver, clams, tuna, and salmon. However, its bioavailability varies by food source. Research reveals that the absorption of B12 can also change based on other factors, such as:
- Having a genetic or acquired disease that reduces intrinsic factor production
- Having a gastrointestinal disease that leads to nutrient malabsorption
- Using medications that suppress gastric acid, thus impairing the release of B12 from food
This research stresses that getting an adequate amount of vitamin B12 isnt always enough. The body also must be able to absorb and process it for effective use. This requires improving its bioavailability through mechanisms designed to aid in B12 absorption.
Technologies that can help enhance B12 absorption include both active and passive options. Some to consider are:
- Formulating the supplement with enhancers
- Encapsulating the B12 so it can survive until it hits the small intestine
- Using alternative routes of administration
An option that falls into the latter category is sublingual delivery.
Studies show that sublingual delivery of B12 is effective for increasing serum concentrations, restoring them to adequate levels in individuals with slight deficiencies. In this study, subjects serum concentrations increased after 90 days of supplementation.
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How To Choose Best B12 Supplementation
We prepared a comprehensive buyers guide to make it easier for you to select the very best supplement of vitamin B12 for your specific needs.
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What Is B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in the formation of red blood cells, cellular metabolism, nervous system function, and DNA production. Moreover, vitamin B12 cannot be produced in the body, and therefore must be obtained through various foods and supplements.
For instance, farm produce such as milk, cheese, eggs, meat , and fish and seafood , as well as B12 vitamins found in supplements.
In addition, in order for our body to use vitamin B12, it has to be absorbed first. This is done in the stomach with the help of hydrochloric acid the essential vitamin is first separated from food protein and is then absorbed by the intestines.
Hence, to obtain the recommended daily doses of vitamin B12, you should rely on animal-based diets or supplements. However, keep in mind that stomach problems may hinder the vitamins absorption rate even when you use the best B12 vitamin supplementation.
For example, people with chronic atrophic gastritis, gastrectomy , diseases of the terminal ileum , chronic alcoholism, AIDS, as well as long-term use of proton pump inhibitors or H2-receptor blockers.
When to Consider Taking B12?
Types of B12
Recommended Dosage of Vitamin B12
The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 depends mostly on your age and gender.
How To Take It
If your diet includes meat, fish or shellfish, milk, and other dairy products, you should be able to meet the recommended daily requirements without taking a vitamin B12 supplement. Vegetarians who do not eat any animal products should take a vitamin B12 supplement with water, preferably after eating. Elderly people may need larger amounts of vitamin B12 than younger people because the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 from the diet declines with age.
If you are considering taking a B12 supplement, ask your health care provider to help you determine the right dose for you.
Daily recommendations for dietary vitamin B12 are listed below.
- 19 years and older: 2.4 mcg *
- Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg
- Breastfeeding women: 2.8 mcg
*Because 10 to 30% of older people may not absorb B12 from food very well, people over 50 should meet their daily requirement through either foods fortified with vitamin B12 or a supplement containing B12.
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Food Sources Of Vitamin B12
Unlike other vitamins, vitamin B12 has the particularity of being contained only in products of animal origin, but in a few foods from the plant kingdom. Therefore, the best sources of vitamin B12 are:
Finally, some algae or cyanobacteria are sometimes presented as reliable food sources of vitamin B12. However, although they may contain it, studies have shown that the form of vitamin B12 contained in these foods would be difficult to absorb by the human body .
What Causes Low Vitamin B12
Low vitamin B12 levels can be caused by a range of factors, such as:
- Older adults without enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach for absorption
- People who have pernicious anemia
- People who have had gastrointestinal surgery
- People who have coeliacs or Crohns disease
- Vegetarians and vegans who consume little to no animal products4
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If Youre Vegan Or Vegetarian
There are def still vegan and vegetarian-friendly foods that are rich in vitamin B12 like fermented foods, fungi, and yeast but these may not be as bioavailable . Research also indicates these forms may compete for absorption with bioavailable forms of B12, potentially making a deficiency even worse.
Chat with your doc about the potential need to supplement with B12. If you do end up deciding to start taking it, make sure that youre thoroughly checking ingredient labels since some capsules and gummies can use animal products in them. Your best bet is looking for a vegan certified product.
Vitamin B12 And Health
Vitamin B12 is involved in the breakdown of a protein called homocysteine. High homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke as it may promote the formation of blood clots and excess free radical cells, and may impair normal blood vessel function. A lack of adequate vitamin B12 can increase homocysteine levels.
Although epidemiological studies have found that vitamin B12 supplementation can decrease homocysteine levels, they have not consistently shown a decreased risk of cardiovascular events in taking the vitamin. Therefore the American Heart Association does not advocate for the routine use of B vitamin supplements in reducing cardiovascular disease risk. However, vitamin B12 supplements can be important for some individuals with genetic variants that lead to high homocysteine levels.
- Enriched soy or rice milk
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Routes Of B12 Administration
The main routes of administration for B12 are oral , sublingual , and injectable or intravenous. We discussed the different types that are available through injectable and intravenous. All the types are available to swallow and I believe sublingual as well. The best route to administer your B12 is injection or intravenous. Of course, that’s not freely available to everyone. The next best option is sublingual or under the tongue. The reason sublingual is better has to do with what happens when you swallow the B12. Some people don’t have the ability to absorb it. In most cases this is why people become deficient to begin with. Be sure you talk to your doctor if you have questions about this as there are many different things to consider. Clearly if you are deficient you need more B12 and a lot of these different forms can work.
That should give you a better understanding of which form of B12 is best. If you have questions about the content in this article, please ask it in the comment section below.
If you want a customized plan on vitamin B12 supplementation or methylation support , click in the link below to get started.
Nature Made’s Sublingual B12 Has 1000 Micrograms Of B12 And Is Usp Verified
Allison Herries, RDN, is a registered dietitian focused on preventing and managing chronic diseases through healthy lifestyle changes.
Rich Scherr is a seasoned journalist who has covered technology, finance, sports, and lifestyle.
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Most people who eat a varied diet including animal foods like meat, fish, eggs, and poultry get enough B12 through food. However, anyone following a mostly plant-based diet or vegan diet may need a supplement to get enough. Additionally, people over 60 or those that have any type of digestive disorder may not absorb B12 efficiently, and a supplement may be needed even if you do eat a diet that contains B12. Supplements may also be helpful for people who have had GI or bariatric surgeries, or have certain medical conditions that can affect the bodys ability to metabolize and absorb B12.
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Also, the timed-release element means that the nutrients will be slowly released over time to provide a steady level of the vitamin throughout the day.
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What Are The Best Sources Of Vitamin B12
You may not realize it, but vitamin B12 can be found in some of your favorite foods. Theres no reason to completely change your diet in order to get a healthy dose of vitamin B12, says Taylor.
Here are some foods that are a good source of vitamin B12:
Dairy and nondairy brands are fortified with vitamin B12. If youre allergic or intolerant to dairy and drink milk alternatives like almond, soy, oat or cashew milk, be sure to check the nutrition label for vitamin B12.
If youre vegan or vegetarian, some cereals are a great source of vitamin B12. Just be sure to choose a cereal that is low in added sugar and high in fiber and whole grains, notes Taylor.
Egg yolks contain more vitamin B12 than egg whites, says Taylor. Its important to eat the whole egg if you are trying to increase your vitamin B12 intake. But if you have high cholesterol, consult with your doctor or dietitian first.
Fun fact: Eating full-fat plain yogurt has been shown to improve vitamin B12 deficiency because the vitamin is more easily absorbed in dairy products. If youre looking for fewer calories, fat-free Greek yogurt is a healthier option that also provides a solid amount of vitamin B12 .
Many people who try to eat healthier include salmon in their diets. It has a ton of omega-3 fatty acids and protein, as well as B vitamins. Just half of a cooked salmon fillet contains more than 200% of the daily value for vitamin B12.
Liver and kidneys
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What Are Vitamin B12 Supplements
Lets start with the basics. What are B12 supplements?
Available in a variety of formats, from traditional tablets to oral sprays B12 supplements are a food supplement to help keep our bodys nervous system and blood cells healthy.1
Its often recommended to take one dose of B12 a day and preferably with a meal to help the body absorb it properly.2
For more information, consult our guide to vitamin B12 to learn about its function, food sources and deficiency.
Triquetra Organic Vitamin B12
This impressive liquid supplement provides B12 in three bioactive forms plus the recommended daily intake of L-Methylfolate as a cofactor. High 5,000 mcg dose in sublingual form for immediate absorption into the bloodstream. Easy dosing with the dropper – no pills to swallow. Cherry-flavored, vegan, non-GMO, certified organic ingredients.
One disadvantage of the liquid form is that it may be difficult to administer each dose in its exact serving, especially for those with arthritic hands.
VitaminB12 Form: Methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, andadenosylcobalamin
Certifications and Safety Standards: GMO- and gluten-free
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The 4 Forms Of Vitamin B12
- Methylcobalamin – The biologically active form found in foods and supplements
- Cyanocobalamin – A synthetic form of B12 that converts into biologically active adenosylcobalamin and methylcobalamin
- Hydroxocobalamin – This is an injectable form to treat b12 deficiency. It is also an antidote for cyanide poisoning
- Adenosylcobalamin – This is the natural, most common form of vitamin B12 found in the cells, organs, and tissues of the human body, as well as the most common form of B12 found in food.
Of these 4 types of B12, cyanocobalamin is the most common synthetic supplement used. It is considered more stable and can convert into biologically active methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin.Methylcobalamin is naturally occurring and is found in food and supplements.
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May Benefit Your Brain By Preventing The Loss Of Neurons
Vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with memory loss, especially in older adults.
The vitamin may play a role in preventing brain atrophy, which is the loss of neurons in the brain and often associated with memory loss or dementia.
One study in people with early-stage dementia showed that a combination of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acid supplements slowed mental decline .
Another study found that even vitamin B12 levels on the low side of normal can contribute to poor memory performance. As a result, supplementing with this vitamin may improve memory, even in the absence of a clinically diagnosed deficiency .
More research is needed to make sound conclusions on the effect of vitamin B12 supplements on memory and cognitive function.
Vitamin B12 may help prevent brain atrophy and memory loss. More research is needed to conclude if supplementing with this vitamin can improve memory in those without a deficiency.
Side Effects Of Taking Vitamin B12 Supplements
Vitamin B12 is part of the water-soluble vitamin team, meaning your body removes any of the excess vitamin every time you pee. Since your body only absorbs what you need, vitamin B12 does not have an upper limit which is the maximum amount of a vitamin you can take without side effects.
That said, there are still some risks associated with supplementing vitamin B12 if you arent deficient:
- A 2015 study found that excess vitamin B12 is associated with acne and rosacea.
- A 2019 study found that vitamin B12 supplementation can be associated with an increased risk of colon cancer in older adults when taken at high doses.
- A 2017 study conducted on hospitalized patients found that patients with elevated B12 levels needed to stay in the hospital longer and were at a higher risk for death.
- A 2019 study found that B12 supplementation during chemotherapy was associated with poorer outcomes.
Keep in mind that all of these studies suggest only supplementing vitamin B12 in the case of a documented deficiency. That means you should definitely talk with a healthcare professional before starting a vitamin B12 supplement.
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Best Of The B12 Bunch: Methyl
While dozens of B12 supplement options are available in almost every dosing method possible, not all can deliver B12 in away that supports optimal absorption and uptake.
Methyl-Life® Active B12 Complete is one of the few B12 supplements that contain all three naturally occurring bioactive forms of B12 in one slowly dissolving sublingual tablet for optimal B12 absorption. Each serving provides the maximum dose of B12, and clinical researchers have noted that taking three forms of B12 may restore B12 levels more efficiently than one. All of these features make Active B12 Complete an excellent option for seniors who are in danger of severe health complications in the case of B12 deficiency.
May Give You An Energy Boost
Vitamin B12 supplements have long been touted as the go-to product for a surge of energy.
All B vitamins play an important role in your bodys energy production, though they dont necessarily provide energy themselves .
Currently, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that vitamin B12 supplements can boost energy in those with sufficient levels of this vitamin .
On the other hand, if youre significantly deficient in vitamin B12, taking a supplement or increasing your intake will likely improve your energy level .
In fact, one of the most common early signs of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue or lack of energy.
Vitamin B12 is involved in energy production in your body. Taking a supplement may improve your energy level, but only if youre deficient in this vitamin.
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