Vitamin B12: How much you should be getting every day and what to eat for your daily dose
Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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Vitamin B12 plays an important role in several processes throughout the body, affecting everything from your energy levels to red blood cell count. A deficiency occurs when you’re not getting enough of this crucial vitamin, though it is generally easy to fix with the right diet. Animal products – including meats, seafood and dairy – are all known for containing plenty of vitamin B12, but how much should you be eating per day? Which other food groups contain this key nutrient?
How much vitamin B12 do you need per day?
Vitamin B12, also known as folate, is a crucial nutrient used by the body to produce healthy red blood cells and support the natural functions of the nervous system.
A deficiency can trigger a number of symptoms ranging from muscle weakness and low energy, to mouth ulcers and disturbed vision, but how much do you need to avoid a deficiency?
According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary allowance varies depending on your age, gender and whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
The scale ranges from 0.4 to 2.8 micrograms per day, and this is exactly how much you should take:
- Babies aged 0-6 months require 0.4mcg per day
- Babies aged 7-12 months require 0.5mcg per day
- Children aged 1-3 years-old require 0.9mcg per day
- Children aged 4-8 years-old require 1.2mcg per day
- Children aged 9-13 years-old require 2.4 mcg per day
- Children ages 14-50 years-old require 2.4mcg per day
- Pregnant women aged 14+ require 2.6mcg per day, and 2.8mcg if they’re lactating
The medically accredited website Healthline suggested that most adults aged 14 and above can meet double the recommended daily intake by eating:
- Two eggs for breakfast (1.2mcg of B12)
- 85g of tuna for lunch (2.5 mcg of B12)
- 85g beef for dinner (1.4mcg of B120
It is generally not necessary for this age group to use B12 supplements unless they are in a vulnerable category.
Who is at risk of a B12 deficiency?
While most people can access the full daily dose of B12 through their diet, some groups might need to supplement their diet in order to increase their intake.
Vegans and vegetarians
The natural sources of vitamin B12 are mostly animal-based food items, which leaves vegans and vegetarians at risk of deficiency.
Eating fortified foods and non-animal products which also contain B12 is essential to fulfil your dietary intake.
Qualified nutritionist Pooja Malhotra recommended the following foods for vegans and vegetarians low on B12:
- Fermented foods (kefir, kimchi, miso, pickles, sauerkraut, sprouts)
- Nutritional yeast (Marmite)
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People who have a poor diet
Eating processed foods high in fat, carbohydrates and sugar can leave you deficient in a range of essential nutrients.
Following a poor diet is just one key factor which puts you at risk of a B12 deficiency, so it is crucial to eat a balanced and healthy range of meals packed with natural nutrients.
According to the NHS, “fad” diets can also increase the risk of a B12 deficiency.
People who take certain medicines
While your diet plays an important role in your B12 intake, some medications can hinder the body’s ability to absorb adequate amounts of the vitamins you consume.
NHS advice states that these include anticonvulsants and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs).
Those over the age of 50
A diet packed full of vitamins is only effective when the body is able to fully absorb the nutrients.
This is a particular concern in people over the age of 50 as it becomes more difficult for the body to absorb vitamin B12 with age.
People who suffer from gastrointestinal disorders
B12 absorption is also a concern for people who have Crohn’s disease and celiac disease.
Which foods are high in vitamin B12?
- Milk – dairy and some non-dairy brands are fortified with B12
- Fortified cereals
- Yoghurt – Greek yoghurt provides more B12 than whole yoghurt
- Liver and kidneys
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