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December 2012

Do You Need More Vitamin B12?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans that were updated last year recommend that people age 50+ get additional vitamin B12. This is a key nutrient vital to healthy aging. The absorption of vitamin B12 from food is dependent on acid in the stomach. As we age, the stomach acid needed to absorb B12 from food declines, compromising levels of this nutrient. 

Vitamin B12 Basics
This water soluble B-vitamin is associated with boosting energy,  essential for nerve health, and regulates red blood cell formation.  Emerging research has linked vitamin B12 to:

  • Protecting the brain from shrinking - associated with dementia
  • Improving bone density
  • Maintaining the central nervous system

Are You at Risk for Deficiency?
Factors that may contribute to vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Age 50+, due to decreased stomach acid
  • Chronic use of antacids, which reduce stomach acid
  • Use of Metformin, a medication used to treat diabetes
  • If you have Crohn’s or celiac disease, gastrointestinal surgery or pernicious anemia

If you cannot absorb adequate vitamin B12, a deficiency can occur.  The only way to determine this is to have a blood test.  Signs of deficiency can include:

anemia • fatigue • weakness • weight loss/loss of appetite • constipation • soreness of the mouth or tongue • depression • difficulty maintaining balance • numbness or tingling of hands or feet

Food Sources of Vitamin B12
Aim for 2.4 micrograms each day

Clams, ckd   3 oz  84
Fortified Cereal  ¾ cup 6.0
Lean beef, ckd 3 oz 2.4
Tuna, water-packed 3 oz 2.5
NF Plain Yogurt  1 cup 1.5
Wild Salmon, ckd 3 oz 0.9
NF Milk   1 cup 0.6
Egg 1 whole 0.6

Foods fortified with B12 do not require stomach acid to be absorbed, animal sources do require stomach acid to be fully absorbed.
Values are micrograms and are approximate

Optimize B12
This vitamin is found naturally only in foods of animal origin including fish, poultry, lean meats, eggs, milk and dairy products.   

  • Dairy products and fish sources may be better absorbed than other foods.
  • Synthetic B12 found in fortified foods does not require stomach acid.
  • Have a variety of B12 rich food sources daily.
  • Ask your physician to check your B12 level.  You may need to take a supplement, especially if you take antacids on a regular basis.

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