Are you getting enough vitamin B12?

Do you get enough vitamin B12? You’ll want to make sure that you do, in order to stay healthy.

Vitamin B12 does a lot of things for your body. It helps make your DNA and your red blood cells, for example.

Since your body doesn’t make vitamin B12, you have to get it from animal-based foods or from supplements. And you should do that on a regular basis, because your body doesn’t store vitamin B12 for a long time.

How Much to Get?

The answer depends on things including your age, your eating habits and medical conditions, and what medications you take.

The average recommended amounts, measured in micrograms (mcg), vary by age:

  • Infants up to age 6 months: 0.4 mcg
  • Babies age 7-12 months: 0.5 mcg
  • Children age 1-3 years: 0.9 mcg
  • Kids age 4-8 years: 1.2 mcg
  • Children age 9-13 years: 1.8 mcg
  • Teens age 14-18: 2.4 mcg (2.6 mcg per day if pregnant and 2.8 mcg per day if breastfeeding)
  • Adults: 2.4 mcg (2.6 mcg per day if pregnant and 2.8 mcg per day if breastfeeding)

Food Sources of Vitamin B12

You can get vitamin B12 in animal foods, which have it naturally, or from items that have been fortified with it.

Animal sources include dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, and poultry. If you’re looking for a food fortified with B12, check the product’s Nutrition Facts label.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Most people in the U.S. get enough of this nutrient. If you’re not sure, you can ask your doctor if you should get a blood test to check your vitamin B12 level.

With age, it can become harder to absorb this vitamin. It can also happen if you have had weight loss surgery or another operation that removed part of your stomach, or if you drink heavily.

You may also be more likely to develop vitamin B12 deficiency if you have:

  • Atrophic gastritis, in which your stomach lining has thinned
  • Pernicious anemia, which makes it hard for your body to absorb vitamin B12
  • Conditions that affect your small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or a parasite
  •  Immune system disorders, such as Graves’ disease or lupus
  • Been taking certain medications that interfere with the absorption of B12. This includes some heartburn medicines including proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec OTC), pantoprazole (Protonix), and rabeprazole (Aciphex), H2 Blockers such as cimetidine (Tagamet) and famotidine (Pepcid AC); and certain diabetes medicines such as metformin (Glucophage).
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You can also get vitamin B12 deficiency if you follow a vegan diet (meaning you don’t eat any animal products, including meat, milk, cheese, and eggs) or you are a vegetarian who doesn’t eat enough eggs or dairy products to meet your vitamin B12 needs. In both of those cases, you can add fortified foods to your diet or take supplements to meet this need.

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