Getting enough vitamin B12 is crucial for your health.
Though it doesn’t get as much attention as other nutrients, vitamin B12 is critical to your overall health, says Kaylee Jacks, a sports dietitian with Texas Health Sports Medicine in Dallas.
It’s important to keep in mind that your body doesn’t produce vitamin B12. You can only get it from animal food products or supplements.
This vitamin contributes in a variety of ways to your health, including:
— Aiding in brain and nervous system function.
— Creating and maintaining DNA.
— Creating and maintaining red blood cells.
— Supporting metabolic processes and energy generation.
Recommended intake of B12
To maintain these functions, the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements recommends you consume these minimum amounts of vitamin B12 on a daily basis:
— Birth to 6 months: 0.4 micrograms.
— Infants aged 7 to 12 months: 0.5 micrograms.
— Children aged 1 to 3 years: 0.9 micrograms.
— Children aged 4 to 8 years: 1.2 micrograms.
— Children aged 9 to 13 years: 1.8 micrograms.
— Teens aged 14 to 18 years: 2.4 micrograms.
— Adults: 2.4 micrograms.
— Pregnant teens and women: 2.6 micrograms.
— Breastfeeding teens and women: 2.8 micrograms.
There are an array of foods rich in vitamin B12. You can reach your daily vitamin B12 requirement by consuming these foods. For example, a half-cup of low-fat milk contains 1.2 micrograms of the vitamin, which is half of the daily need for adults.
Other foods high in vitamin B12 include:
— Shellfish. A 3-ounce serving of cooked clams has 84.1 micrograms of vitamin B12.
— Red meat. Eating a 3-ounce serving of top sirloin beef provides 1.4 micrograms of B12, while a double patty cheeseburger has 2.1micrograms.
— Liver. Organ meats are excellent sources of vitamin B12. Three ounces of beef liver has 70.7 micrograms of B12.
— Fish. Seafood can be a good source of vitamin B12. For example, 3 ounces of sockeye salmon has 4.8 micrograms of B12.
— Eggs. A single egg has 0.6 micrograms of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
B12 deficiency can result from poor dietary intake, vegan or vegetarian diets, or the lack of a compound found in the stomach known as “intrinsic factor,” Jacks says. Intrinsic factor is a glycoprotein produced by the body’s parietal cells, which are also known as oxyntic cells, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The intrinsic factor is important in the absorption and transportation of vitamin B12.
Individuals who have pernicious anemia from a lack of intrinsic factor will require B12 injections because they’re unable to absorb oral B12 in the digestive system, says Dr. Nadia Khan, an internal medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois. Consult with a health care professional before taking a B12 supplement.
Many people get the vitamin B12 they need through food.
Here are seven signs you’re not getting enough of vitamin B12:
Anemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. Having anemia, also referred to as low hemoglobin, can make you feel tired and weak.
Not getting enough B12 is associated with macrocytic anemia, in which the red blood cells are larger than average, Khan says. This is the opposite of iron deficiency, which causes small red blood cells.
Anemia can cause:
— Cold intolerance.
— Mood disorders.
2. Cardiovascular issues
Vitamin B12 breaks down the amino acid known as homocysteine to create new chemicals your body needs, Jacks says. When vitamin B12 is deficient in your body, your levels of homocysteine are elevated. High levels of homocysteine increase the risk of heart attack.
Research suggests that homocysteine is associated with damage to the lining of the arteries, which can therefore increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
3. Dementia-like symptoms
Some research suggests that not getting enough vitamin B12 may be associated with an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Not getting enough of the vitamin is linked to dementia-like symptoms, Khan says.
Those symptoms can include:
— Memory loss.
— Mood swings.
Red blood cell production is one of vitamin B12’s major functions. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, including to your muscles as they work.
Low vitamin B12 results in fewer red blood cells to transport oxygen, causing one to feel weak or tired, Jacks says. Vitamin B12 also plays a critical role in energy metabolism — which is the breakdown of food we eat to be used as energy. “Therefore, when vitamin B12 is deficient, energy production is hindered,” says Jacks.
This condition causes a smoothing of the tongue, which results in tenderness and the inability to taste, Khan says. In extreme cases this condition causes a cracked, red tongue.
6. Nerve cell damage
One of the more serious effects of a vitamin B12 deficiency is nerve cell damage, Jacks says. “Vitamin B12 is critical for the health of the myelin sheath, which surrounds and protects the nerves,” she says. “Deficient vitamin B12 may cause the myelin to swell and break down, damaging the nervous system.”
This could manifest as tingling sensations or numbness.
7. Shortness of breath
A vitamin B12 deficiency can compromise the ability of red blood cells to provide oxygen to muscles, which can lead to shortness of breath, Khan says. It can also cause dizziness.
7 signs of vitamin B12 deficiency:
— Cardiovascular issues.
— Dementia-like symptoms.
— Nerve cell damage.
— Shortness of breath.
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