B12

Why is it needed?

B12 is essential for the functioning of the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. B12 is needed for cell division and to help red blood cells mature normally.

How much is needed?

B12 is an essential nutrient. It is especially important to have adequate B12 in times of growth. Infants, children, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers therefore have particular requirements. Vegetarian infants and children should get sufficient B12 from dairy products and eggs. Vegan children need to ensure that adequate levels of B12 are received from fortified products, yeast extracts or supplements. Adults can build up a store of B12 because it can be efficiently conserved in the body.

The table below sets out the Recommended Nutrient Intake (RNI) for infants and children:

Age micrograms per day
0-6 months 0.4
7-12 months 0.5
1-3 years 0.9
4-6 years 1.2
7-9 years 1.8

B12 deficiency can lead to serious health problems. Symptoms include fatigue, anemia, lack of appetite, depression, neurological damage.

Sources?

B12 is made by bacteria and naturally found in animal products. There are no reliable plant sources of vitamin B12.

  • Dairy products: milk, yoghurt, buttermilk
  • Eggs
  • Nutritional yeast flakes
  • Fortified foods (e.g. cereals, soy milk)
  • Yeast extract (e.g. marmite)

This list is not comprehensive.

The table below illustrates the B12 content of some common foods:

Food Micrograms of B12
4g Marmite (enough for one slice of toast) 0.6
1 cup (250ml) milk 1.2-1.4
50g cheddar cheese 0.7
1 egg, cooked 0.7

Recipes

Beetroot and Yoghurt Curry

Plum and Vanilla Clafoutis

References

Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN/ World Health Organisation, Human Vitamin and Mineral Requirements, 2002

Vegetarian Society Factsheet on B12

Vegan Health. Org

The Vegetarian and Vegan Society Factsheet on B12

Dieticians of Canada, Food Sources of Vitamin B12

Vesanto, M et al (2003) The new becoming vegetarian : the essential guide to a healthy vegetarian diet (Summertown, Tenn. : Healthy Living Publications)

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