Vitamin B-12 Benefits and Sources

by Melissa Chichester

Have you ever noticed those little bottles of energy drinks next to the register at the grocery store or gas station that are labeled “with Vitamin B-12?” In recent years, Vitamin B-12 has become one of the most popular nutritional supplements, and that popularity has expanded to consumer products. But what is it about Vitamin B-12 that makes it so great? Vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it dissolves in water and travels through your bloodstream to get where it needs to go. Vitamin B-12 (also known as cobalamin) supports energy metabolism and has several other benefits.* 

Vitamin B-12 in food 

Your body can’t make Vitamin B-12 on its own, so it is important to consume it through foods or supplements. Like other nutrients, it is more difficult to absorb as you age; that’s why it helps to incorporate it into your diet. You have probably heard that vegetarians and vegans should supplement with Vitamin B-12. Although Vitamin B-12 is present in some vegetarian foods such as nutritional yeast and fortified soy products, it is predominantly found in animal foods, such as:

  • Organ meats, such as lamb and beef liver 
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products
  • Pork
  • Seafood (especially tuna and clams)

Vitamin B-12 nutritional recommendations

The National Institutes of Health in the United States recommends that people over the age of 14 should consume 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of Vitamin B-12 per day. Pregnant and lactating women need a little more than that: pregnant women should consume 2.6 mcg, while lactating women should consume 2.8 mcg. 

Children also need Vitamin B-12. The National Institutes of Health recommend children between nine and 13 years old consume 1.8 mcg per day. Children between four and eight years old should consume 1.2 mcg per day, and children between one and three years of age need 0.9 mcg per day. Be sure to discuss with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements.

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Vitamin B-12 benefits 

One of the main benefits of Vitamin B-12 is that it supports energy metabolism.* Vitamin B-12 aids in normal development and the regeneration of red blood cells.*

Vitamin B-12 is essential for the normal formation of blood cells, contributes to the health of the nervous system, and helps maintain circulatory health.*

Vitamin B-12 also helps maintain cellular energy levels by converting food into energy.* Red blood cells help deliver oxygen throughout the body.

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Vitamin B-12 deficiency

In the United States, most people get enough Vitamin B-12 in their diet; however, some people may struggle with absorption. Older adults, people who consume excess alcohol, and people who have had bariatric surgery may have trouble absorbing Vitamin B-12 properly. Certain medical conditions may also contribute to a lack of absorption. 

People with digestive issues may also be deficient in Vitamin B-12.

Because of the complicated process involved in digestion and absorption of dietary vitamin B-12, supplementation may be important for those with digestive concerns that may lead to B-12 malabsorption.

If you are concerned about your Vitamin B-12 intake, it should be discussed with your personal healthcare provider. A simple blood test can look for deficiency.

Types of Vitamin B-12 supplements 

Vitamin B-12 is available in several forms, including:

Vitamin B-12 is an important nutrient in the body and one of the easiest to take in supplement offer. You can manage your B-12 levels by eating a nutritious diet, supplementing when necessary, and speaking with your physician when you have concerns.