The B vitamins have long had a reputation for providing health and vitality. Even celebrities such as Madonna have relied upon shots of B12 to give a needed boost for a high-energy lifestyle. Oft touted as a miracle supplement, B12 has its drawbacks, so it's important to know how much B12 to take per day: with your doctor's approval, of course.
What is vitamin B12 all about?
Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient the human body needs to remain healthy and to function at peak levels. B12 helps keep the body's nerve and blood cells healthy. It also is part of the synthesis of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), which is the genetic material that lives in all of the cells of the human body. With a good B12 level, you have a lower chance of developing megoblastic anemia, which causes you to feel perpetually fatigued and weak, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.
How much B12 should you take?
The recommended amount of B12 varies from person to person, which is why you should always refer to your physician for a recommendation that takes your particular health condition into consideration. Almost every multivitamin comes with B12 as part of its formula. Vitamin B12 also comes in the forms of a stand-alone supplement, a prescription injection, sublingual pill or nasal gel. For most people, the National Institutes of Health base B12 supplement recommendations on age. The average daily recommended amounts for this supplement are listed in micrograms (mcgs).
Can you get B12 from food?
Eating vitamin B12-rich foods is the best way to get the key nutrient. Some foods, such as cereal, are enriched with vitamins, but many foods naturally contain B12. Beef liver and clams are high in B12, as are fish, meat, chicken, eggs and dairy products.
How do you know if you're B12 deficient?
Most Americans get the necessary amount of B12 from the food they eat each day. Some people, however, do not; in fact, up to 15 percent of people in the United States are deficient in vitamin B12. Your doctor can test your level of B12 to be sure. Older people may not have enough hydrochloric acid in their stomachs to properly digest and absorb B12. This means even those taking supplements may not absorb the nutrient. Those with pernicious anemia have a similar problem, but their bodies don't make enough intrinsic factor in their stomachs to digest B12. Supplements may not help these people, either, unless the dose is high. This is the reason a doctor should recommend the amount of B12 you may need. Vegans and those with gastrointestinal problems may also have problems digesting B12 vitamins.