Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin, which means that our body cannot produce it but it’s essential for survival. It has to come from dietary sources and animal products are practically the only source of Vitamin B12 i.e. meat, fish, dairy, eggs, etc.
What’s the Role of Vitamin B12?
Amongst many minerals and vitamins in the body, Vitamin B12 is probably among the most important. Listing down some of the important functions of Vitamin B12:
- It keeps you energetic. If you feel sleepy or tired throughout the day despite getting enough sleep, you may be deficient in Vitamin B12,
- It’s important for brain health and boosts memory.
- It keeps the heart healthy by bringing down homocysteine.
- It supports healthy skin, hair and nails.
- It may improve mood and help with depression by regulating serotonin, a chemical responsible for regulating mood.
How to Test the Levels?
You can get yourself tested on Vitamin B12 with a standard blood test.
What is the Standard Range and What’s the Optimal Value?
The standard range is >200 pg/ml. But the optimal range is >450/500 pg/ml. The standard range is the minimum you should have in your body. I call it a “passing mark.” But we need much more than a passing mark for perfect health. We call that an optimal range in functional medicine. To know more about it, read this article – What are the optimal ranges.
How Prevalent is Deficiency?
When we look at our client’s data, over 90% are deficient in Vitamin B12. In India, even non-vegetarians do not regularly eat non-veg. Almost everybody needs to increase their intake of vitamin B12.
Should We Take Supplements?
If you are a non-vegetarian, then you can increase your consumption of non-veg. If you are vegetarian, then dairy, curd, and cheese are the best sources for you. If you are a vegan, then supplements seem to be the only choice for you.
Though most people would benefit from supplements in the short term as most people are not close to the optimal range.
If you need to take supplements, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) is only 2.4mcg, which is quite low for most people. Our body will absorb only a small % of it and it would take years to cover up for the deficiency. It’s advisable to take 1000mcg and the body will only absorb 1.3% of it. But you can take such doses only on a prescription. So consult an expert.
Methylcobalamin is the most bioavailable type of Vitamin B12 and the body absorbs it more easily. It is naturally occurring and it is found in animal-based foods such as meat, fish, milk and eggs. Many supplements use cyanocobalamin which is an artificial form of Vitamin B12 and is used extensively because it is the cheapest source. Use Methylcobalamin.