Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is an essential nutrient naturally found in animal foods.
Vitamin B12 is necessary for the normal function of the nervous system and helps turn the food you eat into cellular energy.†
B12 levels may be low for vegetarians and vegans who do not regularly consume animal products.†
Supplementing with vitamin B12 may help reduce fatigue for those low in B12.†
Have you found yourself reading supplement labels, wondering why there are so many names for vitamin B? Unlike some of the other essential nutrients, such as vitamin C and vitamin D, vitamin B can be separated into eight different nutrients, each with benefits for your overall health. Collectively, these vitamins are referred to as the B Complex. To make it more confusing, many of these vitamins have numbers and alternate names, such as vitamin B9, also referred to as either folate (natural form) or folic acid (synthetic form). While it’s true that all B vitamins help assist the body in energy metabolism, breaking down food into energy your body can use, they each have specific functions in your body. †
What is Vitamin B12? It’s a much-discussed B vitamin and for good reason, as it helps support our health in many ways. If you’re curious about what this vitamin does and why it is important, then read on as we explore vitamin B12 in depth.†
How Does Vitamin B12 Impact My Health?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that contains the mineral cobalt, which is why it is referred to as cobalamin . This essential nutrient helps support nervous system function, helps in DNA synthesis, and helps support red blood cell formation. In addition, vitamin B12, along with the other seven B vitamins, helps convert the food you eat into cellular energy . But that’s not all. Vitamin B12 also works in combination with vitamins B6 (pyridoxine) and B9 to help the brain produce SAM-e, which is important to neurotransmitter function and mood health. Bottom line: vitamin B12 is an impressive vitamin that when working in conjunction with other nutrients, helps to support your mood and cellular energy production.†
With all these supports, it’s no wonder that vitamin B12 is an important nutrient you need every day, but did you know that your body cannot produce it? For the body to have B12, it must be consumed from either natural food sources or supplements. The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin B12, for both men and women, is 2.4 mcg daily. This amount increases for pregnant women to 2.6 mcg and up to 2.8 mcg for lactating women . That’s why it’s important to make sure you are eating a healthy diet that contains sources of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal foods: meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Are there plant sources of vitamin B12? Yes, but in smaller amounts. You can find B12 in some fortified breakfast cereals as well as in nutritional yeast and some seaweed. However, people who eat minimal to no animal products may not be getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet .
Why is having adequate B12 important? Fatigue may be an indicator of low levels of vitamin B12 or a B12 deficiency . According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, approximately 6% of older adults have deficient vitamin B12 levels and over 20% have low vitamin B12 levels . Because our bodies store up to 5mg of B12 (much more than we consume in one day) it can take years for the effects of a vitamin B12 deficiency to appear .
There are specific groups of people who might need to supplement vitamin B12: vegetarians and vegans, adults over age 50 for when we lose the ability to absorb protein-bound B12 from food, and those adults with diagnosed low levels of B12. For these individuals, a 1000 mcg vitamin B12 supplement may help increase levels, reduce fatigue and maintain cellular energy levels.† Nature Made® has B12 supplements in a range of forms and strengths to support your nutritional needs.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that we need every day! Since our body does not produce vitamin B12, it is essential to obtain this nutrient through food sources—animal products being the most abundant. For vegetarians, vegans, and those with low vitamin B12 levels, supplementing with this vitamin may help support B12 nutrient needs.† Check out the Nature Made® portfolio of B vitamins, including vitamin B12.
Amy has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University in Los Angeles and is a credentialed English teacher, though she left the classroom to write full time. She especially enjoys creating educational content about health, wellness, and nutrition. Her happy place is in the kitchen, and when not writing, you can find her trying out “kid-friendly recipes” and “healthy desserts for chocolate lovers” from her Pinterest board.
Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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