The Essentiality of Vitamin B12: Sources, Benefits, and Recommended Intake
Understanding Vitamins: B12 in Focus
Vitamins are indispensable nutrients required for the healthy function of cells, growth, and the overall development of a human being. They are broadly classified into two types: fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins. Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K) dissolve in fat and can be stored within the body, while water-soluble vitamins (C and B complex vitamins such as B6, B12, niacin, riboflavin, and folic acid) dissolve in water and are not storable by the body.
Vitamin B12, in particular, is a crucial nutrient. A deficiency can trigger symptoms like tingling and Numbness in hands and feet, as well as anemia, which can lead to fatigue, paleness, and weakness. Anemia due to vitamin deficiency is caused by a lack of healthy red blood cells, usually due to a shortage of B12 and folate. This can occur if people do not consume enough foods containing these vitamins or if their body has trouble processing or absorbing them.
Vitamin B12: Where to Find It?
Vitamin B12 is abundant in various food sources. Animal-derived products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products are rich in this vitamin. Clams and beef liver are some of the best sources of vitamin B12. Furthermore, it can also be found in some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts, and other foods fortified with added B12.
The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes that the exact composition of a varied, balanced, and healthy diet will be determined by individual characteristics (age, sex, lifestyle, and level of physical activity), cultural context, locally available foods, and eating habits. Nevertheless, the basic principles of healthy eating remain the same.
Vitamin B12 Supplements
In addition to dietary sources, Vitamin B12 is also available in form of supplements. These include multivitamin and multimineral supplements, B complex supplements, and supplements that only contain vitamin B12, usually in a form called cyanocobalamin, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Other common forms are adenosylcobalamin, methylcobalamin, and hydroxocobalamin. This vitamin also comes in a form that dissolves under the tongue, known as sublingual vitamin B12.
Recommended Intake of Vitamin B12
The consumption of vitamin B12 will depend on age and sex, according to the NIH. For infants up to 6 months, the recommended dosage is 0.4 mcg (microgram), and for adults, it’s 2.4 mcg. Pregnant women and teenagers should consume 2.6 mcg, and breastfeeding women and teenagers should consume 2.8 mcg.
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