Be Ready, Be Healthy, Preventing B12 Deficiency

Be Ready, Be Healthy, Preventing B12 Deficiency

Why do I need vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is necessary for healthy function of nerve and blood cells.  Deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to weakness and fatigue and more serious health problems like decreased mental function and pernicious anemia.

Why is this important to me?

Vitamin B12 deficiency becomes a problem as we age.  Often people don’t eat enough vitamin B12 in their diet. Another problem is decreased absorption of vitamin B12 in the gastrointestinal track.  Decreased absorption is common as we age and may also be caused by chronic liver disease and drug interactions (including some antibiotics, metformin and acid blockers).

What can I do to get more vitamin B12 in my diet?

You can improve your vitamin B12 intake by eating 2 or more foods listed in the table below. The major food sources of vitamin B12 are meat, seafood and fortified cereals.

Very High High Fairly High
Beef Liver Salmon Cod
Crab Meat Sardines Milk
All Bran cereal Ground beef Cottage cheese
Wheat bran flakes Tuna fish Beef frankfurter
Chicken Liver Plain yogurt Pork loin chops
Clam Soymilk, fortified Beef bologna
Oysters Shrimp Squid
Herring Halibut

Should I take a vitamin B12 supplement?

Although you may eat foods high in vitamin B12, you may not absorb enough B12 in the digestive track.  Because of this it may be a good idea to take a multivitamin that contains vitamin B12 or a vitamin B12 supplement.  Before taking any supplements, check with your doctor to make sure taking a supplement is right for you.

What do scientific studies say?

Studies show that vitamin B12 deficiency is common in older adults (20-30%) and should be addressed as soon as possible (2, 9).   One study found that vitamin B12 deficiency was linked to dementia (1).  Another study showed that vitamin B12 supplements could improve mental function in older adults (4).

Useful Handout

Check out this handout from the National Institutes of Health for some quick facts on vitamin B12, supplement recommendations and dietary sources.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin B12 deficiency becomes a problem as we age because we don’t get enough in our diets and it is not absorbed well in the digestive track.  Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue, weakness, poor mental function and pernicious anemia.  You can improve you vitamin B12 intake by consuming foods high in vitamin B12 like seafood, meats and fortified grain cereals.  Supplements can also help increase your vitamin B12 intake.

Guest Blogger:  Jillian Mickens


1. Blundo, C., D. Marin, and M. Ricci “Vitamin B12 Deficiency Associated with Symptoms of Frontotemporal Dementia.” Neurol Sci 7 (2010): 1-5. Print.

2. Andres, E. et al “Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) Deficiency in Elderly Patients.” CMAJ 171.3 (2004): 251-259. Print

3. Nilsson-Ehle, H.. “Age-related Changes in Cobalamin (vitamin B12) Handling. Implications for Therapy.” Drugs Aging 12.4 (1998): 277-292. Print.

4. Bozoglu, E. et al “The Effects of Early Vitamin B12 Replacement Therapy on the Cognitive and Functional Status of Elderly Subjects.” Bulletin of Clinical Psychopharmacology 20.2 (2010): 120-124. Print.

5. Vitamin B12. MedlinePlus, 11 Aug. 2010. Web. 18 Oct. 2010. <;.

6. Salmon image. <>

7. Cereal image. <>

8. Steak image. <>

9. Bernstein, Melissa, and Ann S. Luggen. Nutrition in the Older Adult. Sudbury, Massachusetts: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2010. Print.



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