WHY DO WE NEED VITAMIN B-12?Vitamin B-12 is an important vitamin that is mainly found in fish, shellfish, meat and dairy products. Vitamin B-12, a water-soluble vitamin, aids in forming red blood cells and in building genetic material. Vitamin B-12 also helps in the functioning of the nervous system and in metabolizing protein and fat in the body.
DO WE GET ENOUGH VITAMIN B-12?According to recent USDA surveys, the majority of Americans met their RDA for vitamin B-12.
Vegetarians, vegans and the elderly are at risk for not getting enough vitamin B-12. Most people with low vitamin B-12 levels either do not consume meat and dairy products or they have trouble absorbing vitamin B-12 from their stomach or small intestines.
What can cause problems with absorbing vitamin B-12?
The following are some things that can cause vitamin B-12 absorption problems:
Your doctor will find out why you have a low vitamin B-12 level by asking questions about your health, giving you a physical exam and taking a blood sample, if necessary.
What happens if my vitamin B-12 level is low?
You might not have any symptoms if your vitamin B-12 level is just a little bit low. However, a very low vitamin B-12 level can cause anemia, depression, dementia or problems with your nervous system.
Some people who have low vitamin B-12 levels also have high levels of homocysteine (say: ho-mo-sis-teen), an amino acid (a building block of protein) in the blood. If you have both of these problems, you may have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
HOW CAN WE GET ENOUGH VITAMIN B-12?Eating a variety of foods that contain vitamin B-12 is the best way to get an adequate amount. Healthy individuals who eat a balanced diet rarely need supplements. However, vegetarians who do not eat any animal products may need a supplemental source of vitamin B-12. The list of foods will help you select those that are good sources of vitamin B-12 as you follow the Dietary Guidelines. The list of good sources was derived from the same nutritive value of foods tables used to analyze information for recent food consumption surveys of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Information Service.
Can I just take one multivitamin pill every day to raise a low vitamin B-12 level?
No. Over-the-counter multivitamins do not contain enough vitamin B-12 to raise a low level. To get enough vitamin B-12, you will need to take special vitamin B-12 pills.
You can also get shots of vitamin B-12. Usually, these shots are given every 1 to 2 days for about 2 weeks. After this, a shot is given once every month. Your doctor can help decide whether pills or shots are right for you.
HOW TO PREPARE FOODS TO RETAIN VITAMIN B-12?Some vitamin B-12 can be lost from foods during cooking. To retain vitamin B-12, roast or broil meat or fish.
WHAT IS A SERVING?The serving sizes used on the list of good sources are only estimates of the amounts of food you might eat. The amounts eaten of some meats may be easier to estimate by the piece rather than by weight. For example, the selected serving size for lamb is 1 chop weighing 2-3/4 ounces, 1 patty weighing 3-1/4 ounces, or 3 ounces of roast shoulder.
WHAT ARE GOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN B-12?
FOOD SELECTED PERCENTAGE OF SERVING SIZE U.S. RDA (1)(1) A selected serving size contains -
+ 10-24 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
++ 25-39 percent of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
+++ 40 percent or more of the U.S. RDA for adults and children over 4 years of age
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