Vitamin B12: Benefits for Vegans and Others

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) - What does it do? Where do I get it? How much do I need? What are the symptoms of deficiency?
vitamin b12 foods

Vitamin B12

It is important for our nervous system to function normally as well as being part of form red blood cells in the bone marrow. Taking supplements of vitamin B12 has important benefits for vegans.

We put together for you the most important thing to know:

Vitamin B12 Benefits and Function

Vitamin B12 is needed to form red blood cells and DNA. It is also a key player in the function and development of brain and nerve cells.

Vitamin B12, together with vitamins B6 and vitamin B9, is involved in the breakdown of a protein called homocysteine

High homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke as it may promote the formation of blood clots and excess free radical cells, and may impair normal blood vessel function. 

A lack of adequate vitamin B12 can increase homocysteine levels

If you choose to take Multivitamin supplement , make sure it includes vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 Sources

Foods - Animal Based

You can only find Vitamin B12 in animal based food and therefore it is essential for vegetarians and vegans to consume products that have been fortified with vitamin B12

The best sources include fish, shellfish, liver, and meatDairy products are also a great source of B12.

Foods - Vegan

Vegan sources of B12  can be found in vegan products that have been fortified with vitamins. Those are among others; plant milk, soy products, and some breakfast cereals. You can also get B12 from dietary supplements. All vitamin B12 originates from micro-organisms.

VitaminB12 Dosage

Recommended Daily Dose of Vitamin B12

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for men and women ages 14 years and older is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) daily. 

For pregnant women, 2.6 µg is recommended and breastfeeding women should get at least 2.8 µg.

Too Much Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, so any unused amount will exit the body through the urine. The upper intake level is 1 mg a day.

Vitamin B12 Deficency

Most people get sufficient vitamin B12 from their diet. 

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.

Vitamin B12 Symptoms of Deficiency

  • Reduction of blood cells in the blood, which again can be of larger size than normal. 
  • Weakness, fatigue
  • Nerve damage with numbness, tingling in the hands and legs
  • Memory loss, confusion
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Seizures

Who is at Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

You might be at higher risk of deficiency if you don’t eat animal products or if you have any of the below conditions:

Vitamin B12 and Medication

Some medications can interfere with the absorption of B12. This includes some heartburn medicines, such as rabeprazole,  omeprazole,  esomeprazole, lansoprazole, and pantoprazole.

Same applies to some H2 blockers such as cimetidine, famotidine, and ranitidine. It is also known for certain diabetes medicines such as metformin.


As with any other medication, you should consult with your physician before starting taking any supplements. 

With vitamin B12 you might not be at risk of taking to high doses, but you might already be getting enough from your diet. 

Vegans inparticular should in general supplement vitamin B12 as main food sources are in animal products.


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