Are you getting enough vitamin B12? According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 out of every 31 American adults has low serum B12 levels. Inadequate vitamin B12 levels put you at risk for neurological problems and deficient blood cell production, which can lead to myriad other serious and life-threatening health conditions.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences expands the influence vitamin B12 has on our body’s homeostasis. We know that vitamin B12 plays a key role in the production and functioning of healthy red blood cells, brain cells, and nerve cells, and helps control and synthesize DNA. Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, have now determined that vitamin B12 has far-reaching benefits for microbial communities that affect energy and food production, the environment, and human health.

New Hope Network explained that researchers…

“… found that B12 interacts with 41 different proteins in the bacterium, and … is central to the regulation of folate, ubiquinone, and methionine — substances crucial to the ability of microbial cells to create energy, build proteins, repair DNA and grow. The findings about methionine show an expanded influence of B12 compared to what has been known.”


As scientists uncover more of vitamin B12’s influence, it becomes evident that it is more important than ever to make sure you’re feeding your body enough B12.

How Vitamin B12 Works in the Body

Vitamin B12 is attached to proteins in the food you eat. Once ingested, hydrochloric acid in your stomach detaches the vitamin B12, which then binds to a compound called intrinsic factor in order to be absorbed by your intestines. Adequate vitamin B12 absorption can have a few factors working against it.

As we age, our stomachs produce less gastric acid, which prevents sufficient absorption of vitamin B12 that’s attached to proteins in food, such as animal meats. The vitamin B12 in meat may also be less bioavailable because potency is lost during cooking. The presence of collagen can also impair absorption alongside reduced gastric acids. Certain medications, such as those prescribed for indigestion or diabetes, can also adversely affect the secretion of gastric acids, and consequently lead to a deficiency or insufficiency of vitamin B12.

Although vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest as any of the following symptoms, many people with low vitamin B12 levels show no signs of insufficiency.

Symptoms of B12 deficiency:

  • Pins and needles sensation
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low energy and overall fatigue
  • Depression/anxiety/irritability/moodiness/insomnia
  • Anemia
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Dizziness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Digestive troubles, such as diarrhea
  • Cognitive issues such as brain fog and memory loss
  • Compromised immune system
  • Swollen tongue
  • Jaundice


Are You Eating Enough Vitamin B12?

According to the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) the recommended daily values of vitamin B12 are:

  • 5 micrograms for children age 7 to 12 months
  • 9 micrograms for children age 1 to 3 years
  • 2 micrograms for children age 4 to 8 years
  • 8 micrograms for children age 9 to 13
  • 4 micrograms for people from age 14 and above

The best food sources of vitamin B12 include high-quality meat, milk, poultry, cheese, and eggs from pasture-raised animals. Nutritionists recommend that vegetarians and vegans add nutritional yeast and vitamin B12-fortified foods to their diet. Vitamin B12-fortified foods such as enriched coconut milk are fortified with synthetic B12 that doesn’t need stomach acid for absorption.

If supplementing with vitamin B12, make sure your supplement is the methylcobalamin form of vitamin B12, not the cyanocobalamin form. Methylcobalamin is easier for the body to absorb. Always consult your doctor before adding supplements to your health prescription.