If you visit the drugstore often, you may notice that the vitamin aisle at your local drugstore is packed with different options, and it can be hard to look through them all of them to find out exactly what you might actually need. What’s more, some supplements are better understood than others: While you may understand the benefits of iron, calcium, and vitamin D, chances are that you are a little less familiar with supplements like vitamin B12 supplements and what their real functions are.
Vitamin B12 has gotten a bit of buzz in the past decade after prominent celebrities were reported to have tried injections to boost their B12 levels. Katy Perry even once tweeted about getting a vitamin B12 shot in her butt. So what’s the deal with B12, and is it deserving of the celebrity hype? Keep reading if you want to know about the purpose of the vitamin, how to tell whether you might be deficient in it, and what to do if you are.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is basically a water-soluble micronutrient that’s naturally found in many animal foods that you eat. There are actually several forms of B12, but according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), all of them contain the mineral cobalt. Vitamin B12 is involved in metabolism with every cell of your body and has a big impact on the synthesis of DNA. B12 is an important supplement because it also helps to create red blood cells in the human body. Since we don’t produce B12 on our own, we have to generate it first from our diets; it is produced by bacteria in the gut and when humans consume certain animal foods, we get the B12 produced by the gut bacteria of those animals.
How much B12 do I need?
Your B12 needs depend largely on your age, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and what your lifestyle is. Women who are 14 years old and up generally need about 2.4 micrograms of B12 a day, according to the National Institute of Health. If you’re pregnant, your needs may increase and go up to 2.6 micrograms a day, while you’ll need 2.8 micrograms a day if you’re breastfeeding.
To help put that into perspective, one cup of low-fat milk has 1.2 micrograms of B12, while some fortified breakfast cereals have up to six micrograms. So basically, you should be able to get more than your daily recommended intake just by having a bowl of cereal with whole milk for breakfast.
How can I know if I’m not getting enough B12?
B12 is a pretty common vitamin deficiency, which impacts up to 15 percent of the general population. There are a few health conditions that make it more likely that you’ll struggle with this, and those include Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, Graves’ disease, and lupus. However, it’s also possible for you to struggle with a B12 deficiency even if you don’t have an underlying health condition. Strict vegetarians and vegans are also at a greater risk of developing a B12 deficiency than lacto-ovo vegetarians (vegetarians who still eat eggs and dairy products) and non-vegetarians, according to the National Institute of Health.
If you’re not getting enough B12 on a regular basis, you could suffer from vitamin deficiency such as anemia, which is a well-known condition in which your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells. This can lead to numbness and tingling in your hands and feet, mental confusion, weight loss, and generally feeling like you have no energy left in your body. If you suspect that you’re deficient in B12 Warren recommends that you talk to your doctor or physician, who can order a blood test to help decide if that’s the case.
How can I add more B12 to my diet?
Most people get enough B12 from the foods they eat without thinking about it. Animal products like beef, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy are B12-rich items, and some foods which include breakfast cereals, some non-dairy beverages (like almond and soy milk), and meat substitutes — are fortified with vitamin B12. In order to find out if an item that you buy is rich in vitamin B12, it is best to read nutrition labels and check. Some foods have more B12 than others: The NIH reports that clams are packed with the vitamin at 84.1 micrograms per three-ounce serving, while liver also has a fair amount. However, if you are a vegan or if you are someone who follows a strict vegetarian diet, it can be hard to get enough B12 in your diet.
Are B12 injections advisable?
Although vitamin B12 injections may have had a moment in the spotlight, it’s not really advisable (or necessary) for the average person. If you’re not getting enough B12 in your diet, injections may be helpful; if you are, they’re unlikely to do anything. What’s more, being deficient in B12 doesn’t mean that you automatically have to have regular shots since some people do just fine with supplements in pill form, however if you have pernicious anemia (caused by a B12 deficiency) or have any other trouble absorbing B12, injections might be a good idea for you.
What happens if you get too much B12?
If you’re taking B12 supplements and you accidentally take more than one in a day, nothing bad is going to happen to you, because B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, there really is no such thing as taking too much, of it. Your body will use what it wants and eliminate the rest. If you’re interested in taking a B12 supplement, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor first because B12 supplements can interact with some medications like chloramphenicol (a type of antibiotic) and metformin (which is generally used to treat diabetes) or simply may not be necessary for you. A conversation with your doctor should help to steer you in the right direction.
If you discover that you are B12 deficient, your doctor will determine how much extra B12 you need, as well as which supplement will work for you. Here are a few to consider.
1. Jarrow Formulas Methyl B-12 500 mcg Lozenges
If you like your vitamins to come with a little flavor, check out this cherry formula, which is generally suitable for both vegans and vegetarians alike. Depending on your preference, you can either dissolve these lozenges on your tongue or chew them.
2. Nature Made Energy B12 1,000mcg Adult Gummies Cherry & Wild Berries
If gummies are more your style, then Nature Made makes some really delicious fruit-flavored ones. Keep in mind that these contain gelatin, which isn’t an acceptable ingredient for vegetarians.
3. Nature’s Bounty Methylcobalamin Vitamin B-12 1000 mcg
If you’re looking for something simple, Nature’s Bounty has you covered with these vegetarian-friendly tablets, which are free of artificial flavors and colors and coated for easy swallowing.
Making sure that you have an adequate dosage of vitamin B12 like any other supplement is important, but it may also be worth your while to do the necessary research to make sure that you are making the right choice of how you would like to take the vitamin B12 dosage. Are you a vegeterain who may need to take B1 shots? Does your lifestyle affect the certain types of B12 foods that you can eat? All of this is very important.