Vitamin B-12 is an essential vitamin that we must get either from our food or from a dietary supplement, because our bodies cannot make it. To get the latest recommendations on vitamin B-12, I recently attended an hour and a half webinar on Vitamin B-12 presented by Dr. Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts, in which he shared his newly revised recommendations for B-12. I learned that as a senior, I may not be getting enough of this essential vitamin, and many others may not be getting enough as well. That’s why I am passing on what I learned.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency can be serious. It can cause cognitive deficits, strokes, depression, bone damage, and increased levels of homocysteine leading to arterial damage. In more advanced cases, it can lead to anemia, and neuropsychiatric disorders.
Vitamin B-12 is made by microbes that blanket the earth. But because we now chlorinate the water supply to kill off any bacteria, it is no longer a reliable source of Vitamin B-12. It is naturally found in animal products, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods
Another source of vitamin B-12 is fortified foods. Fortified breakfast cereals are a readily available source of vitamin B12. Another fortified food source is nutritional yeast. However, the amount of vitamin B-12 varies by brand, and some nutritional yeast contain little or none.
How do you know if you are getting enough B-12? If you are a meat eater, it is likely that you are getting enough vitamin B-12., Many people these days are striving to eat less meat however. Even moderate amounts of meat may not provide enough vitamin B-12. In fact, 1 in 3 non-vegetarians are not getting enough B12. B-12 supplementation is required for all vegans and for many non-vegans as well.
Here are Dr. Greger’s recommendations for supplementation:
- Adults up to age 65: 50 micrograms/day or a single dose of 2,000 micrograms (mcgs) per week.
- Seniors above age 65: 1,000 micrograms/day (All seniors above 65 must take B-12 supplements daily because they don’t absorb it from food).
For pregnant woman and children:
- During pregnancy: 50 micrograms/week or 1000 mcg twice a week
- 6 months to 3 yrs – 5 mcg/day (no weekly rec)
- 4 to 10 years: 25 mcg/day (no weekly recommendation)
- 11 and over: same as adults under 65
The best type of B-12 supplement is cyanocobalamin, because of its stability. Methyl cobalamin is not as stable as cyanocobalamin and therefore not as reliable a source.
A multivitamin is not a good source. The other vitamins in a multivitamin may interfere with B-12 and therefore be counterproductive.
If you want to be tested to determine if you are getting enough B-12, here are some recommendations Although there are tests for B-12 in the blood (serum B-12), they are not a reliable indicator of adequate B-12 because they measure more than vitamin B-12. A low serum B-12 measurement is an accurate measure that you are not getting enough, but a normal or high level is not a good indicator. A functional B12 test is more accurate. Serum homocysteine is one of those that is readily available. If your serum homocysteine is high, that could be an indication of low serum B-12.
Considering the possible serious consequences Vitamin B-12 deficiency, I hope this information is valuable to you. If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them or point you to the right place.