Vitamin B12 is also known as “cobalamin”. This is due to the fact that the term “B12” is a collective term for all the different compounds that have the same basic chemical structure, also called cobalamins.
The “discovery” of the vitamin dates back to the early 1920s when American pathologist GH Whipple saved dogs from deadly anemia, that is, malignant anemia, by feeding them raw liver. However, the vitamin could not be isolated until 1948, and since 1972 we believe that we know everything there is to know about vitamin B12.
Today we know that it is involved in the breakdown of fatty acids and in the formation of blood.
In what part of the body is it needed and what is its effect?
Vitamin B12 is heavily involved in hormones that make you feel good, not only physically but also mentally. The reason for this is that it is used in almost all areas of your body.
For example, it affects your nervous system, detoxification of your body, blood formation, and the breakdown of fatty acids. The vitamin is particularly important for an endogenous vitamin the group of B vitamins, the folic acid.
Cobalamin manages to bring folic acid to an active state so that it can work effectively in your body. Folic acid is also involved in blood formation, growth processes, and cell division.
The latter, in particular, is of enormous importance to your body because if you accidentally cut yourself and your body cannot use folic acid, any wound would heal significantly slower or not at all. As you can see, vitamin B12 is very important.
What foods is vitamin B12 in?
Cobalamins are generally ingested through food. They are mainly found in animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, and in small quantities, also in dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, or cottage cheese.
But how does the vitamin get there? Vitamin B12 is produced by animals in the gastrointestinal tract, so basically it is produced by bacteria. In the gastrointestinal tract of animals, as you will surely know from the human body, there are millions of bacteria, and they are the “treats” that are so important to humans.
It is, also, found in plant-based foods, although it is only present in very, very small amounts. The sauerkraut, for example, contains part of it. Algae, or Chlorella algae to be more precise, is recognized as the only real source of B12 in vegetables.
What happens if you take too little vitamin?
But what if you are on a vegetarian or even vegan diet? The fondness for vegetarianism and veganism is becoming increasingly popular. More and more people are protesting against industrial agriculture and, above all, rejecting meat products.
Vegetarians and vegans can be in trouble when it comes to vitamin B12 intake. Vegans, in particular, should be careful to take the vitamin in the form of herbal supplements, such as Chlorella algae.
If you consume too little vitamin B12 for a short period of time, you will face a feeling of exhaustion and possibly problems with concentration as well. On the other hand, if you eat vegan for several years and do not give your body vitamin B12 replacement products, it can spread serious diseases.
This includes not only disorders of (unwanted) weight loss, vision, sleep, and coordination, but also anemia, depression, confusion, paralysis, nerve pain, and numbness or tingling in the extremities. This is due to the functions of the vitamin mentioned at the beginning.
There are symptoms related to the nervous system such as deafness, tingling, and paralysis. Weaknesses with regard to blood formation are evident by poor performance and immunodeficiency.
Bottom line: with a low vitamin B12 intake, your whole body has to bear the consequences.
What happens if you take too much vitamin B12?
Although most people consume more vitamin B12 than their bodies actually need, overdosing is almost impossible. Only a few cases have caused side effects like acne.
People with vitamin absorption disorders, such as those affected by inflammatory bowel diseases or those lacking intrinsic factor, must consciously overdose vitamin B12 because only a fraction of this alleged overdose is actually made usable by the body.
The reason for this is very simple: the body naturally excretes excess vitamin.
How much vitamin B12 is correct?
The German Nutrition Society says that 3 µg (micrograms) is the ideal amount of vitamin B12 per day for you to consume. But as is often the case, experts disagree on this value, and it cannot have unlimited validity anyway.
Studies have recently shown that humans have a requirement much higher than 3 µg. This is especially true if you are sick. Even women during pregnancy have a greater need for vitamin B12 because at this time two bodies have to receive the vitamin. That of the woman and that of the fetus.
Different values also apply to children and adolescents. Children between the ages of one and four need 1 µg, children between four and seven years old 1.5 µg, children between seven and ten years old 1.8 µg, and those between 10 and 13 years old 2 µg. Pregnant women, on the other hand, require 3.5 µg and breastfeeding women even 4.0 µg.
But, how is this amount achieved through food intake? It is important for you to know that the supply of the vitamin through food and the actual absorption by your body are two completely different pairs of shoes.
The reason for this is that a significant amount of the vitamin is lost during the work processes of your metabolism, and it can no longer become productive. By the way, this is one of the reasons why vitamin preparations have such high doses.
The actual values, which you should follow, are much higher than 3 µg. The following applies to teens and adults. There should be a dose of at least 300 µg to ensure passive diffusion of 3 µg and absorption of 1.5 µg above the intrinsic factor.
To find out exactly what you would need to eat every day to cope with this amount, you can use the vitamin B12 tables below that show you the vitamin content of 100 g in food.
If ingestion through food does not work
However, in most cases, tables of this type only show the foods of animal origin already mentioned, which is not surprising given their amount of vitamin B12. However, if you eat vegetarian or even vegan, you will have your problems.
Always remember that the amount in the pack is not fully absorbed by your body and you may need to take more than one tablet or capsule per day.
Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin B12
|0–6 months*||0.4 mcg||0.4 mcg|
|7–12 months*||0.5 mcg||0.5 mcg|
|1–3 years||0.9 mcg||0.9 mcg|
|4–8 years||1.2 mcg||1.2 mcg|
|9–13 years||1.8 mcg||1.8 mcg|
|14+ years||2.4 mcg||2.4 mcg||2.6 mcg||2.8 mcg|
Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Vitamin B12
|Clams, cooked, 3 ounces||84.1||3,504|
|Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces||70.7||2,946|
|Trout, rainbow, wild, cooked, 3 ounces||5.4||225|
|Salmon, sockeye, cooked, 3 ounces||4.8||200|
|Trout, rainbow, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces||3.5||146|
|Tuna fish, light, canned in water, 3 ounces||2.5||104|
|Nutritional yeasts, fortified with 100% of the DV for vitamin B12, 1 serving||2.4||100|
|Cheeseburger, double patty, and bun, 1 sandwich||2.1||88|
|Haddock, cooked, 3 ounces||1.8||75|
|Beef, top sirloin, broiled, 3 ounces||1.4||58|
|Milk, low-fat, 1 cup||1.2||50|
|Yogurt, fruit, low-fat, 8 ounces||1.1||46|
|Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce||0.9||38|
|Beef taco, 1 soft taco||0.9||38|
|Breakfast cereals, fortified with 25% of the DV for vitamin B12, 1 serving||0.6||25|
|Ham, cured, roasted, 3 ounces||0.6||25|
|Egg, whole, hard-boiled, 1 large||0.6||25|
|Chicken, breast meat, roasted, 3 ounces||0.3||13|
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) FoodData Central Web site) lists the nutrient content of many foods and provides a comprehensive list of foods containing vitamin B12 arranged by nutrient content and by food name.