Everything You Need to Know About Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that helps the body keep nerve and blood cells healthy. It also helps the body produce DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Your body doesn't produce vitamin B12 on its own, so you must consume foods and drinks that contain it to get it. Vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products, such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products.

For those who follow vegan diets, fortified foods can be good sources of this vitamin. Vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria, not by animals or plants. As such, animals, including humans, must obtain it directly or indirectly from bacteria. Food sources of vitamin B-12 include poultry, meat, fish, and dairy products. It can also be found in fortified foods (foods to which certain vitamins and nutrients are added), such as certain cereals, bread, and nutritional yeast.

Vitamin B-12 is also added to some foods, such as fortified breakfast cereals, and is available as an oral supplement. Vitamin B-12 injections or a nasal spray may be prescribed to treat vitamin B-12 deficiency. If vitamin B12 deficiency is detected early, most people can eliminate their symptoms with treatment. Trying to eat more foods rich in vitamin B12 is a great way to increase your energy if your system lacks it. If vitamin B12 deficiency isn't treated, it can cause serious and long-lasting side effects that affect the nervous system and brain. If you're looking for fewer calories, fat-free Greek yogurt is a healthier option that also provides a solid amount of vitamin B12 (it even has more vitamin B12 than whole yogurt).

Whether you want to increase your vitamin stores or prevent deficiency, eating these foods can greatly improve your overall health. The same serving of this cereal also contains 29% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin B6 and good amounts of vitamin A, folic acid and iron (1).Health care providers often perform routine blood tests to detect vitamin B12 deficiency in people who are at high risk of developing it. Additional tests available to evaluate and diagnose suspected B12 deficiency include levels of methylmalonic acid and homocysteine (both are often elevated when there is a B12 deficiency). In one study, researchers added nutritional yeast to the diets of vegans who ate raw foods and found that it increased blood levels of vitamin B12 and helped reduce blood markers of B12 deficiency (2).Depending on the cause of the vitamin B12 deficiency, you may only need to take medications for a short time or you may have to take them for the rest of your life.

The crystalline form is present in vitamin B12 supplements and in foods fortified with vitamin B12, including many cereals, plant-based milks, and nutritional yeast. In addition, the same amount of meat contains reasonable amounts of vitamins B2, B3 and B6, as well as more than 100% of the recommended values of selenium and zinc (1). If your vitamin B12 level is normal, there isn't much research to suggest that taking vitamin B12 increases your energy. A simple blood test will confirm your vitamin B12 levels, and then your doctor can develop an action plan from there. It can be difficult to diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency because the symptoms aren't always present, or the symptoms may be similar to those of other nutritional deficiencies.

Ben Liebhardt
Ben Liebhardt

Amateur travel fanatic. General web buff. Certified travel junkie. Twitter nerd. Infuriatingly humble web practitioner. Certified beer nerd.

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