List of 11 vitamin B12 rich foods for you to resist deficiency
Vitamins are an important nutritional component of a healthy diet. Vitamin B12 plays a huge role in keeping our health at an optimal level. With modern life challenges and fact that the human lifespan is getting longer, vitamin B12 deficiency has become a problem that affects more and more people, especially elderly. Here is a short sum of what it actually does in our body, what problems deficiency causes, plus 11 vitamin B12 rich foods and how much you need to eat of these every day.
Short about what the vitamin B12 is and what it does
Vitamin B12 also known as cobalamine is a nutrient vital for cellular DNA creation and development as well as energy production (1). In order to absorb vitamin B12, it first has to be separated from food proteins by our stomach’s hydrochloric acid. After this a special substance called intrinsic or Castle’s factor binds to it and transfers it to the blood stream.
Picture 1. Molecular structure of vitamin B12.
From that point vitamin B12 partially serves in creation of chemicals called purines and pyrimidines which compose our DNA, and partially deposits in the liver for further use. Vitamin B12 is vital to formation of red blood cells, nerve cells and ultimately of every cell in our body (2).
What is vitamin B12 deficiency
Every substance in our body is present in a certain amount which ensures proper and normal functioning. Vitamin B12 is no different here. As much as 20% of population in industrialized countries are estimated to have deficiency of vitamin B12 and as much as 40% of the elderly. This disorder is caused by different diseases and/or lack of vitamin B12 in diet such is common for eg. vegans and vegetarians (3).
Picture 2. Pate is full of vitamin B12.
It is crucial to stress out that deficiency of B12 develops over course of month or even years as our body has sufficient reserves and thus long time can pass before you start experiencing symptoms and problems related to deficiency.
Table 1. Vitamin B12 concentrations in the healthy and sick (4,5).
|State||Concentration vitamin B12 (pg/ml;pmol/ml)|
|Normal serum levels||200-800; 148-590*|
|Borderline deficiency level||170-250; 120-180|
Table 2. Pregnant women and levels of vitamin B12 (15).
|Recommended Vitamnin B12 for pregnant women|
|First trimester||Second trimester||Third trimester|
*These recommendations of vitamin B12 levels are given in many countries around world. This clinical assessment is however disputed in scientific literature and research. Many think that subtle deficiencies are present even at levels of 300 and more. Medical practitioners in Japan recommend higher levels of vitamin B12 above level of 500 pg/ml. This is due to the fact that there is a possible connection observed between levels of B12 below that concentration and onset of dementia and other neurological disorders (16,17).
Symptoms and diseases associated with vitamin B12 deficiency
Like mentioned, deficiency can be sustained for a long time before it shows any signs and symptoms. It usually affects nervous system and red blood cells, and these can lead to doctor to proper diagnosis. However, list of symptoms is a long one, with some that can even cause life threatening harm if left untreated. It is recommended that if you experience any of these you contact your doctor for further assistance.
Every nutrient deficiency is a potential risk for other diseases to develop or become more severe and vitamin B12 is not any different here. So, if you are suffering from any chronic disease or develop one it is wise to test for vitamin B12 deficiency to prevent potential future risks.
Picture 3. For vitamin B12 boost seafood is a great option.
Another note that is important to take from this is that deficiency in itself and the symptoms it causes can be cured by making up for lost vitamin B12. This can be done either by food, supplementation or injections. If deficiency is caused by some other disease, treating this disease may help restore vitamin B12 faster or prevent future deficiencies.
Sometimes damage caused by vitamin B12 deficiency is too extensive and changes made to the tissue will be permanent. Vitamin B12 supplementation in that case can be helpful to return some of the previous function but treatment and recovery base by other therapy is needed.
Table 3. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency (12,13,14).
|ORGANS AND SYSTEMS aFFECTED|
• Feeling faint
• Raised body temperature
• Loss of appetite
• Weight loss
|Psyche|| • Mood swings|
• Behaviour changes
|Levels beneath 240pg/ml where found on a large number of hospitalized patients with mental disease (9)|
|Mouth and togue|| • Sore and red tongue|
• Mouth ulcers
• Itching and burning sensation in mouth
|Nervous system|| • Pins and needles sensation|
• Disturbed vision
• Memory, thinking, understanding and judgement impairment
• Loss of coordinated movement (walking, speaking, balance etc.)
|Level recommended to help avoid onset of dementia in elderly is >350 pg/ml (8)|
|Skin|| • Hyperpigmentation (rarely)|
• A pale or yellow tint to the skin
Table 4. Short and long term diseases caused by vitamin B12 deficiency (8,9,10,11)
|Disease||Time for disease to develop||Degree of severity||Treatment|
|Megaloblastic anaemia||Months to years||Light- severe||B12 supplementation or injections|
|Dementia and other neurocognitive disorders||Years||Potentially life threatening||Other means of therapy, supplementation not proven useful by some research|
|Peripheral neuropathy||Months to years||Moderate||B12 effective but some degree of impairment remains|
|Subacute combined degeneration of spinal cord or less commonly brain||Months to years||Moderate to severe||B12 supplementation and other means of treatment|
|Fetal neural tube defects||Severe||Pregnant women with B12 and folic acid deficiency risk this complication of pregnancy, folic acid and B12 supplementation for treatment|
|Psychiatric disturbances||Years||Moderate||B12 supplementation and other means of treatment|
|Optic atrophy||Less common, can cause blindness|
|Cardiovascular disease||Years||Moderate to severe||Suggested link, but many factors are in play, so treatment is complicated and involves many different therapies|
List of the 11 most vitamin B12 rich (all eater) foods
It is important for healthy diet to include high variety of different foods to ensure that all nutrients are provided. Vitamin B12 is exclusively found in animal products in nature, so some people groups that do not or rarely eat animal products and certain foods are more susceptible to vitamin B12 deficiency. However in modern society this problem is handled with grains fortified with this vitamin to ensure that there is enough vitamin B12 rich foods for each taste.
Picture 4. Liver is rich in vitamin B12.
Table 5. Recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 (6).
|Men||Women||Children & Adolescents||Elderly||Pregnant||Lactation|
0.9 (1-3 yrs)
1.2 (4-8 yrs)
1.8 (9-13 yrs)
2.4 (13-18 yrs)
Picture 5. Eggs – good source of vitamin B12.
Table 5. Recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 (6).
|Number||Type of food||Serving size/μg B12||Note|
|1||Liver (lamb, veal, beef) cooked||75g/ 52.9-66.0 μg||* serving size exceeds RDI|
|2||Kidney, lamb – cooked||75g/59.2 μg||* serving size exceeds RDI|
|3||Liver (chicken, turkey, pork) -cooked||75g/12.6-23.4 μg||* serving size exceeds RDI|
|4||Oysters – cooked||75g/13.2-26.1 μg||* serving size exceeds RDI|
|5||Herring, Atlantic- kippered||75g/14.0 μg||* serving size exceeds RDI|
|6||Tuna, Bluefin – raw or cooked||75g/8.2-9.3 μg||* serving size exceeds RDI|
|7||Pate (goose liver, chicken liver)||75g/6.1-7.1 μg||* serving size exceeds RDI|
|8||Salmon, red/sockeye – cooked||75g/4.4 μg||* serving size exceeds RDI|
|9||Ground beef – cooked||75g/2.4-2.7 μg||Serving size 100% of RDI|
|10||Swiss/ Emmental cheese||50g/1.7 μg||70% RDI for B12|
|11||Egg- cooked||2 large/1.5-1.6 μg||66% RDI for B12|
Picture 6. Salmon is rich in vitamin B12.
How to test for vitamin B12 deficiency from home
Vitamin B12 level can easily be tested from your home. This test uses blood sample provided from finger to determine its value. By sampling the blood yourself and mailing it to a certified lab you can quickly be sure of your vitamin B12 level. It is safe, private, fast and cheap way to test vitamin B12 levels using same methods as in the doctor’s lab. Some of these tests even offer certified doctor’s opinion on levels.
Recommended vitamin B12 home tests to use:
Order home the kit, collect a small blood sample from a finger to the provided tube and place it in the kit container. Post the sample back and receive the results online. Clear and simple user instructions comes with this fully anonymous test kit.
- Accurate since it measure blood
- Available worldwide
1. Circa 0.5 ml blood needs to be collected
- Fiona O’Leary and Samir Samman, 05.03.2010.,Vitamin B12 in Health and Disease, Nutrients https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257642/
- Unknown author, unknown date, Vitamin B12, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/
- Belghith A, Mahjoub S, Ben Romdhane N. ,11.2015., Causes of vitamin B12 deficiency. La Tunisie Medicale, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27126423
- Unknown author, unknown date, Vitamin B12 fact sheet for health professionals, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Vitamin%20B12-HealthProfessional/
- Unknown author, 2018., Reference ranges, American College of Physicians (ACP), https://annualmeeting.acponline.org/sites/default/files/shared/documents/for-meeting-attendees/normal-lab-values.pdf
- Unknown author, 31.01.2018., Vitamin B12, Nutritional reference values for Australia and New Zealand, Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/vitamin-b12
- Unknown Author, 2015., Food Sources of Vitamin B12, Dieticians of Canadahttps://www.dietitians.ca/getattachment/45413d68-0639-4ad6-8de6-10eb97556e5f/FACTSHEET-Food-Sources-of-Vitamin-B12.pdf.aspx
- Steven F Werder , 06.05.2010., Cobalamin deficiency, hyperhomocysteinemia, and dementia, Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2874340/
- Michael Ssonko, Henry Ddunguand Seggane Musisi,17.02.2014.,Low serum vitamin B12 levels among psychiatric patients admitted in Butabika mental hospital in Uganda, BioMed Central ,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931663/
- Senol MG, Sonmez G, Ozdag F, Saracoglu M., 11.2008., Reversible myelopathy with vitamin B12 deficiency. Singapore Medical Journal, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19037544
- Kasper, D. L., Fauci, A. S., Hauser, S. L., Longo, D. L. 1., Jameson, J. L., & Loscalzo, J. (2015). Chapter 128. Megaloblastic Anaemias. Harrison’s principles of internal medicine (19th edition.). New York: McGraw Hill Education.
- Unknown author, unknown date, Complications- Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia, NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamin-b12-or-folate-deficiency-anaemia/complications/
- Unknown author, unknown date, Symptoms- vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia, NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamin-b12
- Helen West RD, 07.10.2017., 9 signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-b12-deficiency-symptoms#section2
- Abbassi-Ghanavati M, Greer LG, Cunningham FG. Pregnancy and laboratory studies: a reference table for clinicians. Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Dec;114(6):1326-31. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19935037?
- Mitsuyama Y, Kogoh H. , 03.1988., Serum and cerebrospinal fluid vitamin B12 levels in demented patients with CH3-B12 treatment–preliminary study., Japanese Journal of Psychiatry and Neurology, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3398357
- A. David Smith Helga Refsum, 17.11.2011., Do we need to reconsider the desirable blood level of vitamin B12?, Journal of Internal Medicine, https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1365-2796.2011.02485.x