13 Oct How Do You Know If You’re Getting Enough Vitamin B12?
How do we really know if we’re getting enough vitamin B12? First, let’s make sure we know what this vitamin is all about.
Vitamin B12 is an essential micronutrient. It’s also called cobalamin – a blend of the words cobalt and vitamin – since it has the rare metal cobalt in the core of its complex structure.
Animals (including humans) and plants do not make B12.
B12 is made by certain bacteria and by archaea – microbes which are similar to bacteria.
Some soil bacteria make it. Some gut bacteria can make it also. However, they live in the lower end of the intestines where we cannot absorb the B12 they make.
Wanna know how important vitamin B12 is?
Every cell in our bodies requires it for metabolism and DNA synthesis. Deficiency can lead to a build-up of homocysteine (a by-product of protein metabolism that B12 helps to clear from the body), which is associated with increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, and dementia.
B12 also has an important role in making red blood cells
Which is the reason for one of the first signs of B12 deficiency – fatigue. Other signs of deficiency are equally as vague – muscle weakness, forgetfulness, pale skin – so it’s hard to rely on the symptoms as a tool to ensure we aren’t deficient.
Once a doctor finds you’re deficient, B12 injections are recommended to get you back up to normal levels, though several studies show megadosing is also effective.
Your body doesn’t really care where you get your B12 as long as you’re getting enough of it. So, if you’re vegan or vegetarian, how can you get B12 in your diet?
Several plant-based foods are fortified with vitamin B12, such as breakfast cereals, non-dairy milk, and nutritional yeast. But not all of these products are fortified, so you have to check the nutritional information on the label to find out.
Taking supplements is the most reliable way of getting B12.
Supplements are made from bacterial cultures, not from animal products. Studies show that vegans who take B12 supplements tend to have levels of B12 in the normal healthy range.
Even if you’re taking supplements, there is still only one way to find out if you’re getting enough vitamin B12. That is to have your blood tested by a medical professional. Next time you go to the doctor for a check-up, ask the doc to test for B12.
In fact, this is also a good way to make sure you’re not getting too much B12, which could cause problems with the skin, kidneys, and circulatory system!
It’s all about balance.
Article courtesy of Marco Pagliarulo – a biologist with a background in toxicology and ecology, and a love for all things plant-based.