Vitamin B12 is the energy vitamin. It stimulates the body’s usage of protein, fats, and carbohydrates. Vitamin B12 is essential for the metabolism of nerve tissue and necessary for the health of the entire nervous system. It nourishes the myelin sheaths over the nerves which maintains the normal electrical conductivity through the nerves. Vitamin B12 also helps iron function better and is important for the synthesis of DNA and RNA. B12 stimulates growth and appetite in children. B12 is needed for the formation of red blood cells along with iron, folic acid, copper, protein, vitamin C and B6. Vitamin B12 along with B6 and folate have an important role in controlling the level of homocysteine in the bloodstream (elevated homocysteine is associated with circulatory problems). B12 is also required for acetylcholine production in the brain for memory and learning.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble red vitamin and is essential for health. It is a complex molecule which contains cobalt, carbon, oxygen, phosphorous and nitrogen. Vitamin B12 is needed in much smaller amounts than the other B vitamins (3-4 mcg). A mucoprotein enzyme produced by the stomach along with hydrochloric acid is needed for B12 absorption. B12 is stored in the body with the highest concentration found in the liver, heart, kidney, pancreas, brain, testes, blood, and bone marrow. About 5 mcg circulates daily between the digestive tract and the liver.
Foods High in Vitamin B12
Animal protein foods contain the highest amounts of B12.
- Clams 1,402% daily value (DV) per 3 oz.
- Beef Liver 1,178% DV per 3 oz.
- Rainbow trout, wild caught 90% DV per 3 oz.
- Salmon 80% DV per 3 oz.
- Tuna, canned in water 42% per 3 oz.
- Haddock 35% DV per 3 oz.
- Beef sirloin 23% DV per 3 oz.
- Ham 10% DV per 3 oz.
- Egg hard boiled 10% DV per egg
- Chicken breast 5% DV per 3 oz.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Deficiency is common in vegetarians, in individuals with poor digestion, advanced age, alcoholics, malabsorption syndromes, after bariatric surgery and in those with dementia. Vegans will need to supplement. Reduced absorption is caused with laxative use as well as overuse of antacids.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Soreness or weakness of the arms and legs
- Decreased sensory perceptions
- Difficulty speaking or walking
- Diminished reflexes
- Limb jerking
- Mood changes
- Mental slowness
- Changes in digestion
- Pernicious anemia
- Neurological disorders
- Skin sensitivity
- Menstrual problems- amenorrhea
Conditions that Vitamin B12 supplementation can support:
- Malnourishment – stimulates growth and increases appetite in children
- Fatigue– boosts energy levels
- Psychological symptoms – including senile psychosis
- Anemias– helps red blood cells develop normally
- Osteoarthritis/ osteoporosis
- Neuralgias– Bell’s palsy, trigeminal neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy
- Migraine– B12 lowers homocysteine which can decrease the incidence and severity of migraines
- Allergic dermatitis
- Memory problems
- Depression – B vitamins play a large role in production of brain neurotransmitters
- Poor balance
- Low blood pressure
- Canker sores– 1,000 mcg of sublingual B12 over 6 months reduced ulcer duration, pain and number of ulcers
A 10-20 mcg dose is a good maintenance dose for most people. A 500 to 1,000 mcg dose is often used to treat fatigue.
Blood levels of B12 can be checked by a physician.
B12 injections should be considered in individuals who have malabsorption syndromes.
Mega dosing of B12 has not caused any known toxic effects.
Vitamin B12 in the form of adenosylcobalamin combined with methylcobalamin is highly effective and a better choice than B12 injections.
High folic acid intake can mask a deficiency of B12. Some medications, including aspirin, antibiotics, oral contraceptives, can reduce the absorption or activity of B12 in the body. Acid reflux drugs increase the risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Farmacy Counter’s recommended foods for B12 supplements are below. Click the image or link to be directed to Amazon. Also visit our store for more recommendations.
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist to see if vitamin B12 supplementation is right for you.