Vitamin B12 Daily Recommended Amount From Food Sources
Vitamin B12 is a B-complex vitamin found almost exclusively in meat and dairy products. This means Vitamin B12 is one of the vitamins that vegans and vegetarians need to be very careful about. The main function of Vitamin B12 is within cells during cellular division. Like other B-complex vitamins, Vitamin B12 is also used by the body to convert food into energy and by the nervous system. The recommended amount of Vitamin B12 is 2.4mcg per day for adults, and slightly more for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Food Sources Rich in Vitamin B12 are limited to meat and dairy products
As with most of the B-complex vitamins, the major food sources included meat, fish and dairy products. Although Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble, excessive amounts are stored in the liver. This is also true in animals, which makes liver the highest food source of Vitamin B12. While red meat contains large amounts of Vitamin B12, it is better to substitute red meat whenever possible with fish and poultry, which also contain B12, but without all the harmful things found in red meat. Milk and other dairy products also contain sufficient amounts of Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 in vegan or vegetarian diets
Because of the rise in the popularity of vegan diets, Vitamin B12 deficiency has become an issue. Unfortunately, as is often the case in early research, some data has proven incorrect. For many years, it was believe that Vitamin B12 could be obtained from plant food sources such as soy and seaweed. Unfortunately, this research was later found to be flawed because there was a chemical in these foods that gave a false positive. Later tests showed that the chemical that was testing as Vitamin B12 was known as Spirulina, which the body cannot use the same way it used Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency will occur in people even if they consume Spirulina. Even more troubling is that this flawed information has spread throughout the internet much wider than the information that corrects it.
Vitamin B12 found in enriched cereals
Another source of Vitamin B12 is through enriched foods. Most cereals and some breads are enriched to provide adequate supplies. However, for those purist vegans, it should be noted that the source of the Vitamin B12 used to enrich grain foods is meat and dairy sources.
Vitamin B12 from fecal contamination
Another interesting scientific fact is that the bacteria that are located in the intestines of humans manufacture and secrete large amounts of Vitamin B12. Unfortunately, this occurs low in the intestinal tract, past the point where the vitamin could be absorbed. This information was found because of studies of certain SW Asian countries where meat is rarely consumed and yet lacked widespread Vitamin B12 deficiencies as would be expected. The research found that crops that were improperly cleaned, actually contained enough Vitamin B12 from human feces to prevent deficiencies from occurring.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
A deficiency of Vitamin B12 can result in tiredness, fatigue, diarrhea and constipation. One of the tell-tale signs of a Vitamin B12 deficiency is problems with the nervous system. One of the most often first reported symptoms is extreme tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.
Summary of information about Vitamin B12 Food Sources
Vitamin B12 is obtained rather easily in most normal diets as any source of meat, fish or other seafood contains large amounts. Excess amounts are also stored in the liver, which means only long-term deficiencies in the diet will result in an actual Vitamin B12 deficiency. Vegans, and to a lesser degree vegetarians, need to pay close attention to this nutrient, and especially to the symptoms of a deficiency. There is currently no way to get Vitamin B12 besides foods composed of animal or animal products.