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Daily Source of Vitamin B12

Fortified foods such as some breakfast cereals and types of nutritional yeast can provide another cholesterol-free source of vitamin B12.

February 8, 2012 |
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Acknowledgements

Image thanks to Krista.

Transcript

Though it may be cheaper and easier to just take something once a week, some people would rather get into the habit of doing something daily, so they don't forget. So how much vitamin B12 would you have to take if you wanted to do it once a day rather than once a week?

Well, using the formula we just learned, 1.5 plus 0.01 times the quantity (x minus 1.5) equals 4 to 7; solve for x. I'll wait... Once a day, 250 micrograms or more is all we need. You can put it next to your toothbrush to remind yourself.

The reason we can't absorb more than about 1.5 at a time directly through our receptors is that they get filled up. But it only takes about 4 to 6 hours to unload their cargo into the body and then they're back in business.

So if we got B12 three times a day -- breakfast, lunch, and dinner -- we could absorb 1.5 each time and end up with 4.5 at the end of the day, which is all we need, and those kind of doses we can get from four to five foods.

The so-called "daily value" on Nutrition Facts labels for B12 is 6 micrograms. So as long as each serving contains 25% of our daily value, then we can eat a serving of B12-fortied foods at every meal, and we wouldn't have to take supplements at all!

So, for example, there's a vitamin B12-fortified nutritional yeast. Two teaspoons counts as a serving, so you could sprinkle that on your meals. But that would cost a few dollars a weeks, as opposed to just a few pennies a week for B12 supplements.

Whichever path you choose, these are not just recommendations for people eating plant-based diets. They're for anyone who wants to get a cholesterol-free source of vitamin B12.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is transcript contributed by Bruce A. Hamilton.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

Update: data heroically procured by Vesanto Melina suggests that the nutrition facts label of Red Star brand's "vegetarian support formula" nutritional yeast is misleading and that one may only get 0.9 mcg of vitamin B12 per teaspoon. So to serve as a sole source one would have to consume 2 teaspoons three times a day (4 to 6 hours apart). The video was updated and re-recorded on July 14, 2012 to reflect this fact. Thank you Vesanto!

Note that nutritional yeast doesn't naturally contain B12—it has to be fortified with the vitamin. So many formulations lack B12 completely. So for example, while Red Star brand's "vegetarian support formula" nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B12, their "elder support formula" doesn't have any (which makes no sense, as the Institute of Medicine recommends everyone over age 50 supplement with B12). So if you buy it in bulk and are relying on it for your B12, you may want to ask to see the package it came from just to check to make sure it has B12 in it. If you'd rather just take a supplement once a week, see yesterday's video of the day, Cheapest Source of Vitamin B12. And for an explanation on why fortified foods and supplements are the preferred source, see the video before that, Safest Source of B12. And to put the whole B12 issue in perspective, see Vegan B12 Deficiency: Putting It into Perspective. And if you're sick of learning about B12, there's only one more video in this five-part series, and there's always a thousand other topics to fall back on.

For more context, check out my associated blog post, Stool Size and Breast Cancer Risk.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/mgreger/ Michael Greger M.D.

    Note that nutritional yeast doesn’t naturally contain B12—it has to be fortified with the vitamin. So many formulations lack B12 completely. So for example, while Red Star brand’s “vegetarian support formula” nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B12, their “elder support formula” doesn’t have any (which makes no sense, as the Institute of Medicine recommends everyone over age 50 supplement with B12). So if you buy it in bulk and are relying on it for your B12, you may want to ask to see the package it came from just to check to make sure it has B12 in it. If you’d rather just take a supplement once a week, see yesterday’s video of the day, Cheapest Source of Vitamin B12. And for an explanation on why fortified foods and supplements are the preferred source, see the video before that, Safest Source of B12. And to put the whole B12 issue in perspective, see Vegan B12 Deficiency: Putting It into Perspective. And if you’re sick of learning about B12, there’s only one more video in this five-part series, and there’s always a thousand other topics to fall back on.

    • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vegan-gary/ vegan gary

      Hi Michael

      I left this question some time back on your vegan epidemic video, but so far no response, so here it is again.

      My wife and I are vegans and we take B12 supplement. I have a couple of questions:

      - we use methyl B12 1000 mcg 2/week. You often discuss the necessity of taking B12 for vegans. We swapped to methyl B12 as a workmate said the cyano B12 was unhealthy? I see from your site you recommend the cyanocobalamin and that methyl is expensive and unecessary. Is the methyl just as effective?

      - why is taking B12 as a supplement healthy and taking other vitamins as supplements unhealthy. I understand the argument for other supplements goes like this: taking supplements overloads the receptors on the cell for that group of vitamins and therefore other vitamins within that group can’t be taken up and imbalances occur. If that is correct, why doesn’t this happen for B12 in relation to uptake of other B vitamins. There seems also to be an issue about taking your nutrients in the context that they came from eg having an orange rather than drinking orange juice for vitamin C. How does this relate to B12?
      By the way congrats on nutrition facts. I have sent it to my kids but they haven’t become addicts yet!
      Thanks Gary

      • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

        Hello gary,

        Here is Dr. Greger’s response to the different b12 forms
        “cyanocobalamin (the inexpensive form) vs. methylcobalamin. Vitamin B12 supplements are so cheap to produce that supplement manufacturers try to come with all sorts of fancy ways to “add value” to products so they can make more money. The coral calcium scam is the classic example–how else can you charge $20 for a bottle of chalk? Likewise, unless you’re a smoker, have kidney failure, or base your diet around cassava root, cyanocobalamin should be fine. ”

        Gary, the reason b12 is healthy is because as vegans, b12 is non existent in our diet. Vitamin B12 is a byproduct of bacteria, it was once found in our water supply, and on the plant foods we eat. Because we now chlorinate our water (to avoid getting sick from other bugs) and because we dont ground pick our vegetables from the wild without washing them, the only available source is now from animal products. This is of course an unnatural setting. Similarly, iodine is no longer found in plant foods. This is why the government iodized salt, to help Americans get adequate iodine intake. Similarly still, we do not expose ourselves to adequate sunlight, and the UV rays of today are much more potent then they once were in our evolutionary past so vitamin D must be supplemented for optimal health.

        Humans have changed their environment, so sometimes supplements are necessary to achieve optimal health.
        http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/vitamin-supplements-worth-taking/
        http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/vitamin-d-supplements-may-be-necessary/
        http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/avoiding-iodine-deficiency-2/

        b12 is also water soluble, (like vitamin c and other b vitamins) so you don’t risk imbalances or overdose.

        • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/vegan-gary/ vegan gary

          Hi Toxins

          What I am wanting to know is, is methyl just as effective, not whether it is more expensive. I have already got a substantial quantity of the stuff so I might as well use it if it just as good.

          I am still waiting for Michael to answer this and my other questions about how come taking B12 as a supplement doesn’t cause imbalances in the uptake of other B vitamins, when I thought this was one of the arguments against taking supplements: that it causes illness by causing imbalances in vitamin uptake. why also is it ok to take B12 isolated from other food (in other words as a supplement rather than in a food item) whereas taking folate in your bread so an unatural place for folate is bad for you? I think I know the answer to this in that food is a package deal and when we eat the folate in spinach for example we are getting fibre and other nutrients which may be important in some way to enable our body to utilise the folate. This is what I would like Dr Greger to talk about.

          • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/toxins/ Toxins

            Vegan Gary,
            My above reply was meant to show you that both forms of vitamin b12 are equally effective and that manufacturers will try to make up claims for their product to make them more expensive.

            As for the other b vitamins, they are actually all water soluble so you cannot overdose on these vitamins either. That is why b12 so safe. Imbalances are not feasible. If folate is “added” to white bread it is the synthetic form, “folic acid”. Otherwise, folate is found naturally in wheat.

            http://nutritionfacts.org/videos/can-folic-acid-be-harmful/

        • moonchasis

          toxins, i really like your thoughts on the B12 issue in regards to humans once having a measurable and viable/sustainable source of b12 via water, unwashed food. I am wondering if you are basing your theory on reputable studies, or is this a theory you have based on logic? i ask you this not to challenge you but to better understand the dynamics of the b12 issue. Logic tells me your statements are correct, but lots of people have claimed the same thing you have and no one ever shows reputable studies backing it up. i’d love to read a study claiming that humans sustained/sustain their b12 requirements in this manner. thanks so much for any clarity on this.

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/MacSmiley/ MacSmiley

    Thanks for remembering your YouTube homepage, Michael!! :-)

  • http://nutritionfacts.org/members/lisakskinner/ lisakskinner

    Dear Dr. Greger,
    At the beginning of this video the background is your 2011 recommendations for optimum nutrition. Where can we find this in a printable format? I would love to have a copy. Thanks so much for all your wonderful work!
    Lisa

  • Vera Springate

    Shown in this video recommendations’ outline for plant-based dieters is certainly very helpful to ensure that necessary nutritional requirements are met.  Would you please recommend sources to read on what’s vegan diet?  It seems definitions vary out there, and info overload doesn’t help either.  Do you have favorite recipe web sites?  Thanks.

    • Toxins

      Hello Vera,

      The best vegan diet is one that is entirely whole foods, plant based and unrefined. You want to try and eliminate white flour, white rice and remove free oils from your diet. You also want to keep it low fat and vary with the fruits and vegetables. I personally make my meals all complex carbohydrate based (brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes etc.) with other vegetables and spices.

      Here is a website with great whole foods plant based recipes.
      http://happyherbivore.com/recipes/

      • Vera Springate

        Thanks Toxins.  Through which foods do you get your daily protein?  I’m dairy free and eat almost no animal protein.  Just legumes seems not doable stomach wise.  Don’t enjoy soy at all having grown up by the Arctic Circle (where pig’s lard makes the day :) )  Not enough protein – and too much fiber – is very possibly the reason why I’ve been having digestive issues.  

  • Shannon

    Hi Dr. Greger, can you give some specific recommendations for pregnancy supplementation specifically B12. Thank you very much!  Love this site!

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

       The recommended RDA is 2.6 mcg/d vs 2.4 mcg/d or an increase of about 8%. You can meet these by adjusting the amount of Vit B12 upward. It is important to work with you physicians as there are conditions which would warrant modification of these general recommendations. Best wishes.

  • Traxmom

    I am reading now that nutritional yeast is a neurotoxin, excitotoxin, almost identical to MSG, manufactured the same way, etc. Is this true? Should I banish the nutritional yeast from my pantry?

  • http://www.facebook.com/sofia.nva Sofia Nva

    If I supplement with shots of b12, they go straight to blood stream, what would be my daily recommendation?

    • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

      As a general rule for persons without disease I wouldn’t recommend shots. Most patients who need Vit B12 due to medical conditions can be managed with oral B12 as well. The dose varies depending on the condition. Shots can be used initially or if oral therapy is not adequate. You can get a sense for how complicated this is by viewing the Mayo Clinic website… http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-B12/NS_patient-vitaminb12/DSECTION=dosing. If you have a medical condition it is important to work with your physicians to determine if you need B12 and the dose that works for you.

  • Guest

    Hi Dr. Greger! I love your site and think that you provide so much wonderful information. I have been taking vitamin code’s raw b-complex and am wondering if you or someone else can recommend another brand? I want to make sure that I am getting enough vitamin b12; the information on the back of the box says that 2 capsules contain 133 mcg of vitamin b12, which is supposedly 2217% of our daily value. I also bought Deva’s vegan sublingual b12, but then I noticed that it came with a California proposition 65 warning, so that’s no good. Can anyone recommend a good vitamin b12 supplement that is safe and effective? Thank you!

  • HealthyVegan

    Hi Dr. Greger! I’ve been taking MegaFood’s vegan b12 tablets and I am
    wondering if they are sufficient? I know that you recommend cobalamin
    and say that it can be found for as little as $2/year, but I have yet to
    find this (does anyone know where I can find this?). I stopped taking
    other vitamin b12 supplements because they had mannitol and other
    ingredients that I don’t want to consume. MegaFood’s b12 supplement
    comes from S. cerevisiae and I’m wondering if this yeast is another
    trusted source of vitamin b12? Thanks in advance for your help!

  • Julot Julott

    Is there the same limit from food B12, can we absorb 20µg of B12 if we eat oysters?