What is it?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin needed for cell division, formation of healthy red blood cells, and neurological functioning, just to mention a few. The scientific name for this vitamin is cobalamin, because the vitamin contains the mineral cobalt at the center of its structure.
How can I get it?
All vitamin B12 is made from bacteria, and most humans get it from eating animal products. When we eat animal products, B12 is attached to animal protein, and via digestion, our body is able to detach it for storage and use. Most people who eat animal products don’t have to worry about B12 deficiency. This is more of a concern for vegans and people over 50.
So how can vegans get enough of it?
There are plant-based foods that are fortified with B12, such as soymilks, soy meats, and protein bars. Look on the labels to see if there is any B12 content in the product. Nutritional yeast, not to be confused with active yeast or brewers yeast, is a popular choice for many vegans, because it contains a rich source of B12. It is also fortified with B12.
It is strongly advised that vegans also take supplements to meet daily needs. The best B12 supplements are either chewable or sublingual (dissolves under the tongue) because the body can absorb it more easily.
Why is it an issue for people over 50?
Absorption declines with age, because of decreased hydrochloric (HCL) acid production in the stomach. HCL helps our body break down foods, and release nutrients for absorption. It is for this reason that health professionals advise that ALL people over 50 obtain at least half of their B12 from supplements or fortified foods, because the B12 in these products are more easily absorbed than those bound to animal proteins.
How much of it do I need?
The recommended daily allowance is 2.4 micrograms for adults. When taking supplements, you should aim to get around 25-100 micrograms because the body will only absorb a small fraction of the entire supplement.