Vitamin B12 is important for metabolism, the formation of red blood cells, and the maintenance of the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. Working in combination with Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B9 (folic acid), B12 plays a key role in converting homocysteine into methionine, one of the 20 or so building blocks from which the body builds new proteins.
B12 is naturally found in animal products such as fish, poultry, meat, eggs or dairy. Breakfast cereals and enriched soy or rice milk are also often fortified with B12. Both beef liver and clams, an odd combination, have incredibly high levels of B12, but omega-rich salmon and trout have good levels. There’s also some B12 in chicken, tuna, yogurt, milk, eggs and cheese. B12 is also found in virtually all multivitamins, as a standalone vitamin and in prescription form.
While most of us consume enough B12 in our diet, deficiencies do occur. As B12 is only found naturally in animal products, vegetarians and vegans, and those who consume very little animal protein, milk or dairy should supplement to avoid a B12 deficiency. Those with “pernicious anemia” are also often B12 deficient, as are heavy drinkers and those who have had weight loss surgery. As our stomach acid helps extract the B12 from the food we eat, those who take proton-pump inhibitors (like Prilosec or Nexium), H2 blockers or other antacids regularly to reduce stomach acids may have a deficiency.
With age, stomach acid levels decline. In addition, many older adults trend towards a diet with less animal and dairy products, and the combination of changing diet and lower stomach acid levels can cause a deficiency. For these reasons, Cooper Clinic regularly measures B12 blood levels in patients over the age of 65 and in others who might be at risk.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency include memory issues, moodiness or depression, muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, low blood pressure, numbness or tingling in arms and legs, shakiness, an unsteady gait and incontinence – the same exact symptoms that mimic the downside of aging for many. For this reason, and because it’s possible to have only one or two of the symptoms and still be deficit, our recommendation is to consider B12 deficiency if any of the symptoms exist.
The only way to know for sure if your B12 level is low is to get a blood test. The accepted range for B12 is between 254 and 1,320 picograms per milliliter of blood serum. Cooper Clinic physicians like to see levels at of least 400- to 500 picograms per milliliter of blood serum or higher.
Within the Cooper Complete line of supplements, all adult multivitamins contain 400 micrograms of B12. For those who need additional supplementation, we also have a liquid B12 that delivers 1,000 micrograms B12 per serving. The liquid is a mild cherry flavor, and because it’s in liquid form, the amount taken can be varied as needed. A 30-serving supply is $12.95. If you’d like to hear more about B12, click here to listen to this podcast on the subject by Todd Whitthorne, President and CEO of Cooper Complete® Nutritional Supplements.
To purchase Cooper Complete supplements, visit the Cooper Store.
Jill Turner is VP Operations for Cooper Concepts, the company that markets Cooper Complete nutritional supplements. Email (email@example.com) or call 972-560-3262 with your questions and comments regarding supplements.
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