What Is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is a nutrient you need for good health. It’s one of eight B vitamins that help the body convert the food you eat into glucose, which gives you energy. Vitamin B12 has a number of additional functions. It is needed for:
- production of elements of DNA
- production of red blood cells
- regeneration of bone marrow and the lining of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts
- maintaining the health of the nervous system and spinal cord
- prevention of megaloblastic anemia
How Much B12 Do I Need?
The amount of vitamin B12 you need is determined primarily by your age. Below the dietary need is given in micrograms:
- birth to 6 months: 0.4 mcg
- infants 7–12 months: 0.5 mcg
- children 1–3 years: 0.9 mcg
- children 4–8 years: 1.2 mcg
- children 9–13 years: 1.8 mcg
- teens 14–18 years: 2.4 mcg
- adults: 2.4 mcg
- pregnant teens and women: 2.6 mcg
- breastfeeding teens and women: 2.8 mcg
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in foods that come from animals, including meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. It also may be found in some fortified cereals and nutritional yeast.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- muscle weakness
- stiff, spastic muscles
- low blood pressure
- mood disturbances
The most serious condition associated with vitamin B12 deficiency is megaloblastic anemia. This is a chronic blood disorder in which the bone marrow produces overly large, immature blood cells. As a result, the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.
Do Older Adults Need More B12?
Older adults are in the age group most likely to be deficient in vitamin B12.It can:
- reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke
- benefit memory
- offer protection against Alzheimer’s disease
- improve balance
How Do I Know if I Have Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
A simple blood test can determine the B12 levels in your body. If your stores are low, your doctor may prescribe a supplement. Supplemental vitamin B12 is available in capsules form, in tablets form. In some cases, your doctor may prefer to use injections to increase vitamin B12 levels.
You should aware of vitamin B12 in your diet, but you don’t need to be overly concerned about if you’re not in an at-risk group. As with most nutrients, it’s best if you can get the vitamin B12 you need from the food you eat. For ample stores of vitamin B12, eat a well-rounded diet that includes meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.