Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) plays an essential role in red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function and the production of DNA, the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information. This nutrient is naturally found in animal foods, but also can be added to foods or supplements.
Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the proper functioning of the brain and nervous system. It’s needed for red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, and DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 has also been linked to preventing age-related decline in brain function.
Food sources of vitamin B12
Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin found in many animal products such as poultry, meat, fish, liver, eggs and dairy products (milk, cheese, and yogurt), fortified nutritional yeast, enriched soy or rice milk. Vitamin B-12 is also added to some foods, such as fortified breakfast cereals, and is available as an oral supplement.
Who might have a vitamin B12 deficiency?
People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet might be prone to deficiency because plant foods don’t contain vitamin B12. Left untreated, a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, muscle weakness, intestinal problems and nerve damage.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B-12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms.
Who might benefit from a vitamin B12 supplement?
Most people get enough vitamin B-12 from a balanced diet. However, older adults, vegetarians, vegans and people who have conditions that affect their ability to absorb vitamin B-12 from foods might benefit from the use of oral supplements.
Vitamin B-12 supplements also are recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding exclusively and follow vegetarian or vegan diets.
A big group that could potentially benefit from a vitamin B12 supplement is vegetarians and vegans, says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet.
People with digestive issues like Celiac disease and the Crohn’s disease, or any condition that refers to poor absorbtion of nutrients may also need to supplement, says Jessica Cording, M.S., R.D., author of The Little Book of Game-Changers.
Top vitamin B12 supplements
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