Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is necessary for maintaining nerve cells, red blood cells and producing DNA. Vitamin B12 is often used by the body in combination with other B vitamins as well.Vitamin B12 can be found bound to the protein in meats, seafood and dairy products. Because of this, many vegetarians and vegans often suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. When meat is consumed, the hydrochloric acid that is located in the stomach releases vitamin B12 from the protein. Once the vitamin is released, it combines with another substance called the intrinsic factor before absorbed into the blood stream.Vitamin B12 can be found in many meats and dairy including:
- Dairy products including milk and yogurt
Vitamin B12 deficiency is rare, as the body is able to store several years’ worth of the vitamin. Seniors are at a greater risk for deficiency, as are vegetarians and vegans. In the case of the elderly, many become deficient because they are unable to use the vitamin appropriately rather than not consuming enough. If the person is unable to absorb the vitamin in the digestive system due to cancer or another issue, pernicious anemia can result. Some individuals do require greater amounts of vitamin B12, including pregnant women and people with liver or kidney disease.Another interesting effect associated with vitamin B12 deficiency is that it can mimic Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin B12 often causes symptoms of confusion, disorientation and other actions that are noticed in people who have Alzheimer’s. Additionally, many people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease have been found to have very low levels of vitamin B12 in their blood. This suggests that there may be some individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s who actually have a vitamin B12 deficiency and not the disease.The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B12 in adults is 2.4 micrograms per day. Women who are pregnant should get 2.6 mcg per day and breastfeeding women should receive 2.8 mcg. Elderly people should be certain to eat vitamin B12 fortified foods and take a vitamin B12 supplement to ensure they do not become deficient. The same is true for vegetarians and vegans.