Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified.
You can get the recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of the foods including:
- Organ meats (beef liver)
- Shellfish (clams)
- Meat, poultry, eggs, milk and other dairy foods
- Some breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts
To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the nutrition fact panel on the food label.
The body absorbs animal sources of vitamin B12 much better than plant sources. Nonanimal sources of vitamin B12 vary in their amount of B12. They are not thought to be reliable sources of the vitamin.
Some of the health benefits Vitamin B12 provides are:
- Protects your heart
One of the main causes of death is heart disease, and studies have shown that Vitamin B12 is beneficial for your heart, as it reduces the levels of homocysteine in your blood, thus preventing the condition.
- Prevents nerve damage
The vitamin is capable of replenishing the myelin sheath of the nerves, which protects them from all sorts of damage.
- Important for your bones
Studies have shown that people that suffer from osteoporosis have low vitamin B12 levels but high levels of homocysteine in their blood.
- Boosts your energy levels
Vitamin B12 helps boost your energy levels and is crucial for your metabolism, as it converts carbs into usable energy, which is why people who lack the vitamin experience fatigue.
Primary Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 helps the formation of erythrocytes, which are oxygen-carrying cells. Lacking the vitamin can result in a condition called anemia where the muscles and the heart don’t receive as much oxygen as they need to function properly, and the individual experiences fatigue.
- Numbness in the head and feet
Low oxygen levels in the body caused by the deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to numbness in the feet and head.
One of the main symptoms of most vitamin deficiencies, especially vitamin B12, is fatigue, and it occurs due to low levels of oxygen in the cells, which makes you feel tired and sleepy.
- Swollen and inflamed tongue
Another common symptom of a lack of vitamin B12 is a loss of little bumps on the tongue known as papillae, which happen to be responsible for our taste. Losing these little taste buds means that you lose the sensation of taste.