Between 1.5% and 15% of Americans suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. Although this figure reflects that most Americans get enough vitamin B12, some people can’t effectively absorb it. You should have your physician check to ensure you’re receiving the recommended dietary allowance (RDA).
The effects on your body if you don’t get enough of this vitamin can be detrimental. But the good news is, there are four types of vitamin B12. This means you have a few options to ensure you get your daily intake.
But why is vitamin B12 important and what happens if your intake isn’t enough? Read on to find out.
What Is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin also known as cobalamin. It plays an important role in the function and metabolism of all of your body’s cells. Basically, it’s essential and helps your body function effectively.
You can find Vitamin B12 in a variety of foods including:
Meats – chicken, beef, liver
Fish – tuna, trout, salmon
Shellfish – clams
Dairy – low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt
Vitamin B12 is also found in eggs and some fortified breakfast cereals. The daily intake of vitamin B12 is one to 25 micrograms (mcg) every day, ideally 1.8 mcg.
- Adults and older children: 2.4 mcg
- Pregnant women:2.6 mcg
- Breastfeeding women: 2.8 mcg
Adults 50 years and older are advised to meet their daily requirements by consuming foods rich with vitamin B12 or via a B12 supplement.
Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is important as it helps with overall cell health. This allows it to increase energy as well as:
- Facilitate the formation of red blood cells
- Prevent anemia
- Help keep hair, nails, and skin healthy
- Help prevent birth defects
- Improve heart health
- Prevent osteoporosis and help with bone health
- Reduce macular degeneration
- Help with brain health
- Lessen symptoms of depression and improve your mood
With all of these benefits which touch almost every system in your body, it’s important to ensure you’re getting enough of it.
Types of Vitamin B12
You can also find vitamin B12 from sources other than food. You can choose which is best for you.
This form of vitamin B12 is active in the human body. It protects your cardiovascular system by converting homocysteine, an amino acid found in your blood into methionine.
Methionine is also an essential amino acid that works as an antioxidant. It can help prevent liver damage caused by acetaminophen poisoning. It can also detoxify your body of harmful substances.
Methylcobalamin provides overall protection of your nervous system and protects brain cells as well. It facilitates the biochemical reactions of the body.
This is the type of vitamin B12 found in most foods. It’s naturally created by bacteria. Once consumed it turns into methylcobalamin in your body. It’s also commonly given via an injection specifically for the treatment of B12 deficiency and cyanide poisoning.
This is a synthetic form of vitamin B12 and one of the cheapest health supplement alternatives. Because it contains a cyanide molecule, your body has to work harder to convert and then expel it. However, the amount it contains isn’t harmful and it the most stable form of B12.
This is the least stable form of B12 found outside the human body. It’s the type of B12 needed during the Citric Acid Cycle. This Cycle is important for aerobic respiration.
Although this form of B12 is naturally occurring, it’s not easily transformed into a pill-based supplement.
Ways to Take Vitamin B12
The great thing about vitamin B12 is that it’s available in several forms. You can choose the one that’s most suitable for you and your lifestyle.
The easiest way to get an adequate vitamin B12 intake is through a balanced diet. Consuming the foods mentioned above will provide even more than the RDA. However, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you may have to use other forms of vitamin B12 including fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin B12 isn’t found in plants so supplements may have to be an option.
Vitamin B12 supplements usually contain methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin. Your doctor can prescribe one of the many versions available including capsules, oral health supplements, or gummies.
The administration of vitamin B12 via injection must be done by a medical professional. It’s injected intramuscularly. B12 nasal spray is also available for intranasal treatment. Your physician will need to provide a prescription for this type of treatment.
Which Form of Vitamin B12 Is Best?
You might want to find out if one is better than the other before deciding which form of vitamin B12 to take.
When it comes to B12 injections vs pills, both are effective in reducing B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 Pills
Unlike B12 shots, you don’t have to see your doctor every time you need to take them. You receive your prescription and take as recommended. As the name entails, they provide a great way to supplement the vitamin B12 that you may not be getting through your diet.
Vitamin B12 Injections
Your doctor will prescribe vitamin B12 shots if you have a severe B12 deficiency to address it as quickly as possible. When it’s injected into your muscle your body absorbs about 10% of it immediately. This allows it to replace vitamin B12 quickly.
It’s usually recommended when treating pernicious anemia. This occurs when a lack of vitamin B12 prevents your body from producing healthy red blood cells.
Deciding which is best for you will include a discussion with your doctor. He/she will more than likely choose a prescription based on the severity of your B12 deficiency if any.
Your Body Without Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 assists with many of the functions within your body. You may not feel any effects with a mild deficiency. But your body can be adversely affected if there’s a severe deficiency.
Here are some things that can occur if you’re not getting enough vitamin B12:
- Mental problems
- Vision loss
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Tingling nerves or numbness
- Problems walking
- Muscle weakness
- Pale skin
- Bowel issues
- A smooth tongue
These symptoms often occur gradually and many of them are reversible with proper treatment.
Get a B12 Boost
Having an adequate amount of B12 in your body ensures overall health. Regardless of the types of vitamin B12, you decide to take, you’ll receive an energy boost along with other benefits. Consult with your physician to find out if you’re getting all the B12 you need.
For information that will ensure you’re getting all you need for your body, check out the Health section on the site.