Why We Should Probably Increase Our Vitamin B12 Consumption

Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient that plays a crucial role in many of our body’s essential functions. Despite its importance, many people are unaware of how much vitamin B12 they should be consuming and the potential health consequences of a deficiency. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of vitamin B12, signs of deficiency, sources of B12, and why you might need to increase your intake.

The Importance of Vitamin B12

Essential Functions

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is essential for several critical bodily functions:

  • Red Blood Cell Formation: Vitamin B12 helps in the production of red blood cells, which are crucial for transporting oxygen throughout the body.
  • DNA Synthesis: It plays a vital role in DNA synthesis and cell division.
  • Nervous System Health: B12 is crucial for the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. It helps in the maintenance of the myelin sheath, which protects nerve fibers.
  • Energy Production: It aids in the conversion of food into energy, helping to maintain overall energy levels.

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to a range of health issues, some of which can be severe if not addressed promptly. Here are some common signs and symptoms:

  • Fatigue and Weakness: A lack of red blood cells leads to less oxygen being transported, causing tiredness and weakness.
  • Anemia: Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia, characterized by large and abnormal red blood cells.
  • Neurological Changes: Deficiency can lead to nerve damage, resulting in symptoms such as numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, balance issues, and memory problems.
  • Mood Changes: Low levels of B12 have been linked to mood changes, including depression and irritability.
  • Glossitis and Mouth Ulcers: Inflammation and soreness of the tongue and mouth ulcers are common signs of deficiency.

Why You Might Need to Increase Your Vitamin B12 Intake

Several factors can contribute to a need for increased vitamin B12 intake:

  • Dietary Restrictions: Vegetarians and vegans are at higher risk of B12 deficiency since it is predominantly found in animal products.
  • Age: Older adults may have reduced absorption of B12 due to decreased stomach acid production.
  • Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as pernicious anemia and gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, can affect B12 absorption.
  • Medications: Some medications, including proton pump inhibitors and metformin, can interfere with B12 absorption.

Best Dietary Sources of Vitamin B12

To ensure adequate intake of vitamin B12, incorporate these foods into your diet:

  • Meat and Poultry: Beef, chicken, and liver are excellent sources of B12.
  • Fish and Shellfish: Salmon, trout, tuna, clams, and sardines are rich in B12.
  • Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, and yogurt provide a good amount of B12.
  • Eggs: Eggs are another good source, particularly the yolks.
  • Fortified Foods: Plant-based milks, breakfast cereals, and nutritional yeast often have added B12.

Vitamin B12 Supplements: What You Need to Know

If you’re unable to meet your vitamin B12 needs through diet alone, supplements can be an effective alternative:

  • Types of Supplements: B12 supplements come in several forms, including tablets, capsules, sublingual (under the tongue) tablets, and injections.
  • Dosage: The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for adults is 2.4 micrograms per day, but higher doses are often required for those with a deficiency.
  • Absorption: Sublingual supplements and injections are particularly effective for individuals with absorption issues.

How to Ensure Adequate Vitamin B12 Intake

Routine Testing:
Regular blood tests can help monitor your B12 levels, especially if you fall into a high-risk category. Early detection of a deficiency allows for prompt intervention and management.

Balanced Diet:
Incorporate a variety of B12-rich foods into your meals. A balanced diet not only helps in maintaining adequate B12 levels but also supports overall health.

Supplements as Needed:
Consult with a healthcare provider to determine if B12 supplements are necessary for you. They can help you choose the right form and dosage based on your specific needs.

Common Myths About Vitamin B12

Myth 1: Only Vegetarians and Vegans Need to Worry About B12 Deficiency
While it’s true that plant-based diets can increase the risk of B12 deficiency, meat-eaters are not immune. Factors like age, medical conditions, and certain medications can also lead to deficiency.

Myth 2: You Can Get Enough B12 from Plant Sources Alone
B12 is naturally found in significant amounts only in animal products. Some plant-based foods are fortified with B12, but they may not be enough to meet your needs.

Myth 3: All B12 Supplements Are the Same
B12 supplements come in various forms and not all are equally absorbed. For example, sublingual tablets and injections are better absorbed by people with digestive issues.

FAQs About Vitamin B12

Q: Can I take too much vitamin B12?
A: Vitamin B12 is water-soluble, so excess amounts are typically excreted in urine. However, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare provider before taking high doses.

Q: How long does it take to recover from a B12 deficiency?
A: Recovery time can vary. Some people may feel better within days of starting supplements, while others might take several months to fully recover.

Q: Can children have a B12 deficiency?
A: Yes, children can also be deficient in B12, especially if they follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. It’s important to ensure they get enough B12 through fortified foods or supplements.

Q: Are there any side effects of B12 supplements?
A: B12 supplements are generally considered safe. Some people might experience mild side effects like diarrhea or skin itching, but these are rare.

Q: Can B12 deficiency cause weight gain?
A: There is no direct link between B12 deficiency and weight gain. However, fatigue and low energy levels might reduce physical activity, potentially leading to weight gain over time.


Vitamin B12 is essential for maintaining energy levels, supporting brain function, and producing red blood cells. Whether through diet or supplements, ensuring adequate B12 intake is vital for overall health. If you suspect you might be deficient, it’s important to get tested and take appropriate action.

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