Let’s Learn About Vitamin B12…

*For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to take a look at the essential vitamins for our health. We’ll look at the what, where, when, who and how much. Please remember that this blog is providing general information. If you are questioning whether you need to take a vitamin(s) supplement, please speak to a health professional such as your family doctor, pharmacist or registered dietitian.*

The next up in the series of vitamin blogs is…vitamin B12.

What is it and what does it do?
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin. Vitamin B12 is used to form DNA (working with the vitamin folate), make healthy blood cells and keep nerves working properly.

Where do we get it?
According to Dietitians of Canada, vitamin B12 is found naturally in some foods or added to fortified foods. Natural sources are only found in animal foods, therefore, the best food sources for vitamin B12 are found in the Milk and Alternatives and Meat and Alternatives food groups. Some soy and rice beverages, as well as soy based meat substitutes, are fortified with vitamin B12. The top 5 food sources are: kidney (lamb), liver (beef, lamb and veal), kidney (veal), kidney (beef) and oysters.

Who and How Much?
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin):
• Men and women, 19 and older, should aim for an intake of 2.4 micrograms (mcg)/day.
• Pregnant women, 19 and older, should aim for an intake of 2.6 micrograms (mcg)/day.
• Breastfeeding women, 19 and older, should aim for an intake of 2.8 micrograms (mcg)/day.
A safe upper limit for Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) has not been determined.

Water-soluble vitamins travel through the body, and excess amounts are usually excreted by the kidneys. The body needs these vitamins in frequent, small doses. Eating a balanced diet, according to Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide usually provides enough water-soluble vitamins, including vitamin B12 (cobalamin).

Vitamin B12 is especially important for vegetarians and vegans as they avoid most or all animal products. Fortified foods might be necessary to reduce the risk of not meeting their vitamin B12 needs.

Vitamin B12 is also important for older adults as their bodies are less able to absorb this vitamin as they get older. Ten to thirty percent of older people may not absorb vitamin B12 well. Low levels of vitamin B12 can cause pernicious anemia, a reversible blood disorder that causes fatigue and difficulty thinking and concentrating.

Before taking any supplement, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider or Registered Dietitian to discuss your individual needs.

For the next couple of weeks, we’re going to take a look at these essential vitamins for our health in greater detail. If you have any questions on a specific vitamin or vitamins in general, let me know.

If you have any nutrition topics you would like me to write about or have a question you would like answered, email me at [email protected]. I would really like to hear from you!