B12 - What Is It and How To Get Enough?
B12 is an exceptional vitamin. It’s required in smaller amounts than any other known vitamin. It’s required for hundreds of processes from proper red blood cell formation, brain health, to DNA synthesis. You simply have to get enough in order to function properly.
What is B12?
B12 is a vitamin made by bacteria commonly found in the gut - a byproduct of digestion, which is why B12 is most commonly found in animal intestines and animal products. There are a few ways animals absorb B12. Cows and sheep have the ability to absorb B12 made by their own gut bacteria. Some animals get B12 by eating poop or having bacterial contamination on their food and water. Think: cows eating grass next to a bunch of cow patties. Some animals get their B12 when they eat other animals, or animal products like flesh, milk, or eggs.
Because of modern sanitation and the way society has evolved, we don’t eat that much bacteria anymore - who knew dirt and a little bit of contamination could be good for you?
So if you’re plant based and living in the modern world, and you are not eating poop, or anyone else’s poop, or animal products, or if you’re simply getting older - you probably need a supplement. Because “Eating meat for B12 is like drinking CocaCola for Potassium”
Though deficiency can take years to develop if you have stores of B12, the results of deficiency can be deadly. Cases have been reported of paralysis, psychosis, blindness, and even death. Newborns of mothers who eat a plant-based diet and fail to supplement may develop deficiency much faster with disastrous results.
For these reasons, getting enough vitamin B12 is absolutely non-negotiable for people eating solely plant-based foods. Even many omnivores are deficient in B12 (studies have shown this to be ~40%), so whether you take it as a pill, or a spray, it’s a great way to ensure that you don’t suffer from the severe effects of a deficiency.
How much B12 do you need?
We only need 2.4 micrograms of B12 a day and are unable to absorb much more than that. We saturate B12 receptors with as little as 1.5 mcg B12 and the rest passively diffuses through our gut into the blood.
For adults under age 65, the easiest way to get B12 is to take at least one 2,500 mcg cyanocobalamin supplement each week or a daily dose of 250 mcg.
For those over 65 who eat plant-based diets, the supplementation should probably be increased up to 1,000 mcg of cyanocobalamin each day.