The Complex Vitamin B-12 Made Easy

The Vitamin B-12 tends to garner a lot of confusion and questions. I didn’t even know there was a Vitamin B-12 until about five years ago. Since then I spent countless hours reading and learning about health and wellness including Vitamin B-12. I found how information related to it could be confusing but the end result for what to do quite simple. Here I will share what I uncovered and what I do to protect myself from Vitamin B-12 deficiency.

What is Vitamin B-12?

I found many resources describing benefits, deficiencies, sources and recommended quantity but few that describe Vitamin B-12 in an easy to understand manner. This description in the book titled, Becoming Vegan, Express Edition: The Everyday Guide to Plant-based Nutrition, seemed to have the clearest definition I could find (1):

“Vitamin B-12 is part of a team of nutrients that converts carbohydrates, fat, and protein into useable energy. It helps build DNA and red blood cells, particularly during times of rapid growth, and it maintains the protective sheaths around nerve fibers. In addition, it helps rid the body of homocysteine, a potentially damaging substance that can injure the delicate inner lining of artery walls and trigger heart disease.”

Where does it come from and what is the safest source?

This is where I’ve encountered confusion and questions from many people. Dr. Michael Greger really helps make this simple. To begin, Dr. Greger shares information specific to Vitamin B-12 on this page via his website, nutritionfacts.org. He states, “Vitamin B12 is not made by plants or animals but by microbes that blanket the earth. In today’s sanitized, modern world, the water supply is commonly chlorinated to kill off any bacteria. So, while we don’t get much B12 in the water anymore, we don’t get much cholera, either, which is a good thing!”

In a short video, Safest Source of B12, Dr. Greger does a wonderful job explaining how although animals consume and carry certain bacterias that line their guts and then pass through to those consuming it, it’s not a good source of B-12 as you get all the side-effects that come with it…saturated fat, lard, hormones, cholesterol…

To avoid the side-effects he recommends intake via B-12 fortified foods and/or supplements (B-12 pill).

How much do I need?

Dr. Greger provides a clear explanation on the amounts via the page devoted to B-12. He summarizes for two audiences, over and under the age of 65 that includes:

“For adults under age 65, the easiest way to get B12 is to take at least one 2,000 mcg supplement each week or a daily dose of 50 mcg. Note that these doses are specific to cyanocobalamin, the preferred supplemental form of vitamin B12, as there is insufficient evidence to support the efficacy of the other forms, like methylcobalamin.

As we age, our ability to absorb vitamin B12 may decline. For those over 65 who eat plant-based diets, the supplementation should probably be increased up to 1,000 mcg of cyanocobalamin each day.”

It’s interesting when I was reading recommended units the math didn’t seem to add up when comparing daily, twice per week, or weekly dosages. This has to do with absorption rates so it’s not a simple equation. There are many examples illustrating various absorption rates of B-12 from animals, plant sources, and supplements. Dr. Greger provided this thought via The Game Changers Documentary website:

“Note that many foods are B12-fortified, and range from exotic foods like nutritional yeast to drinks as simple as soy milk. While it’s certainly possible to get enough B12 with frequent servings of fortified foods and beverages, it seems simpler to just take a supplement.”

Take-away

Vitamin B-12 is the only supplement I ensure I take. To make it easy on myself I consume a pill once a week as Dr. Greger recommends. It’s simple, gets me ample amount and is extremely cheap. I encourage you to do a bit of research yourself and consult with your doctor for further dialogue if you desire. Keep learning to enable you to make informed decisions.

– Add Health to Your Life

(1) Davis, B., & Melina, V. (2014). Becoming vegan: The complete everyday guide to plant-based nutrition. Summertown, TN: Book Publishing Company: 102

* Blog Feature Photo – Got to meet Dr. Greger at a talk in 2018…awesome!

** Bonus Material – James Wilks, the Producer of The Game Changers Documentary addresses a challenge to the film and B-12 in this recap (19 minutes). Very entertaining.

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