An essential requirement for the body, vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient. Apart from building metabolism it helps in proper functioning of the brain, and DNA formation. It can be stored in your body for several years, and there are rare cases of serious B12 deficiency. However, a deficiency in this vitamin can lead to anaemia, weakness and fatigue, and in some instances, nerve damage.
Here are a few factors that can cause insufficient levels of vitamin B12:
- Diet: Following a completely vegetarian or vegan diet.
- Age: People over 50 have higher chances of being low on B12.
- Anaemia: Pernicious anaemia arises due to inability of the body to absorb B12 that synthesises RBCs.
- Surgery: Bowel resection or weight loss surgeries decrease B12 absorption.
A widely known fact is that it’s found in abundance in animal products like eggs, dairy, seafood etc. The daily recommended intake of vitamin B12 depends on various factors like age, gender and lifestyle. You can reach your daily vitamin B12 requirement by taking supplements. This is the ideal dosage, depending on your age:
Adults under 50 years of age
For people over 14, the RDI for vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg, which can be met through diet. Supplements are usually not recommended for these people. Foods like eggs, tuna, and beef can be included in the diet. However, a need to take supplements may arise if any of the above factors hinder in the absorption or intake of B12.
Adults over 50 years of age
Older people are at higher risks of having vitamin B12 deficiency. With age, the body produces less stomach acid, which accesses B12 in food. 62 per cent of adults over 65 years of age are found to be short of the optimal blood levels. Thus, National Academy of Medicine recommends supplements and fortified foods to reach optimal levels of B12, like fortified coconut milk or fortified cereals.
Pregnant people naturally require higher amounts of B12 compared to general population. Low levels of this nutrient have been linked to birth defects in infants. It can also put the infants at the risk of low birth weight. Thus, for pregnant people, the RDI is 2.6 mcg. A well-planned diet should suffice, or prenatal vitamins can be taken.
According to Healthline, breastfed infants with vitamin B12 deficiency are likely to experience developmental delay. They are also susceptible to lowered appetite and irritability. So, the RDI of vitamin B12 for breastfeeding women is 2.8 mcg.
Vegetarians and vegans
People following a rigidly plant-based diet are also required to follow the same recommendations. However, it’s harder for people under 50 to meet the RDI of 2.4 mcg, if they’re vegetarians or vegans. Some studies indicate that a dose of up to 6 mcg of vitamin B12 per day is ideal for vegans. There is no clarity on the same for vegetarians.
Vitamin B12 increases energy
B12 has been noticeably linked to improve energy levels, especially in people who are deficient and are taking supplements. A few studies suggest an intake of 1mg per day for a month, followed by a dose of about 125-250 mcg per day to keep up the ideal level of B12. The intake of B12 has also been associated with improving memory and mood, though there are not many scientific theories to support this.