Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin,belongs to the B vitamin group. Vitamin B12 is important for normal blood and nerve function. It also plays a part in making folate (vitamin B9).
Both vitamin B12 and folate are essential in the manufacture of DNA (our genetic material).
Vitamin B12 deficiency can result in megaloblastic anaemia or, less frequently, neurological symptoms.
Who needs vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is important for everyone.
- Older people are at the greatest risk of vitamin B12 deficiency because of an age related decline in absorption of the vitamin from food.
- Vegans and vegetarians also need to watch out for low B12 levels as Vitamin B12 is contained only in foods of animal origin.
Where can I get vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, as it is mainly found in meat, eggs, and dairy products. Liver, fish and seafood, eggs, and milk products are especially rich sources of vitamin B12.
Vegan dietary sources of vitamin B12 include fortified cereals, fortified non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast and marmite.
Who needs vitamin B12 supplements?
Most healthy adults do not need vitamin B12 supplements. However, a deficiency of vitamin B12 may occur in certain health conditions such as poor nutrition, stomach or intestinal problems (such as Crohn's disease), infection, and cancer. Also, longterm strict vegetarian or vegan diets (no animal products) are associated with a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, higher dietary levels of vitamin B12 are required.
Read more about Vitamin B12 supplements
Food and Nutrition Guidelines Healthy Adults – background paper Ministry of Health