Vitamin B12: How Much, How Often?

Image Credit: kokopinto / Flickr. This image has been modified.

This week celebrates the upload of its 300th video. Though the site is officially only 9 days old, it launched “preloaded” with 288 videos taken from the last four years of my Latest in Clinical Nutrition DVD series. My primary motivation to move this body of work to the web was to make it freely available to everyone, a dream come true thanks to the Jesse & Julie Rasch Foundation. Another great benefit of this medium, though, is dialogue.

The daily new videos-of-the-day are just the beginning. The discussion begins below them in the comments section after every blog entry and video. Please feel free to ask any questions, offer any tips, make any requests, and share your experiences and expertise. So far I’ve been able to personally answer every question that’s been asked (or at least make an attempt!), and hope to keep that up as long as I can. You can also “like” the facebook page and join in on the discussion there or on our twitter page.

Tomorrow is day 10 of my 365 day marathon to upload a new video every day, seven days a week, for at least the first year. So far, of all the posts, Vegan B12 deficiency: putting it into perspective was the most commented upon. The conversation there and under the corresponding video, centered on practical questions about how someone eating vegan — no meat, dairy, or eggs — can ensure a regular, reliable source of vitamin B12. Here are the recommendations I posted:

In my professional opinion, the easiest and most inexpensive way to get one’s B12 is to take at least 2,500 mcg (µg) of cyanocobalamin once each week, ideally as a chewable, sublingual, or liquid supplement (you can’t take too much–all you get is expensive pee).

Or, if you’d rather get into the habit of taking something daily (instead of once-a-week), I recommend at least 250mcg (I know the math doesn’t “add up” but that’s due to the vagaries of the B12 receptor system — I’ll record and upload a video showing how I arrived at these recommendations).

Or, if you’d rather get it from B12-fortified foods instead of supplements, I’d suggest three servings a day, each containing at least 25% of the “Daily Value” on its label (again, I’ll explain). Such foods can be as exotic as a certain type of “nutritional yeast” or as simple as a bowl of Cheerios.

In my 20 years eating a plant-based diet, I’ve personally found the once-a-week method to be the simplest . If you share with a bunch of friends it can cost as little as $2 a year — cheaper than Cheerios! :)

I am averse to even mentioning brand names (unless I’m being critical of their products, e.g. Alli®, Applebee’s®, Airborne® supplements, Burger King®, Centrum®, Chick-fil-A®, Chili’s®, Coca-Cola®, Dow Chemical®, Eggbeaters®, Flomax®, Herbalife®, Häagen-Dazs®, Juice Plus+®, KFC®, McDonald’s®, Lipitor®, Nutrasweet®, Pop Tarts®, Purevia®, Sugar Twin®, Splenda®, Sweet and Low®, Sweet One®, TGI Friday’s®, Truvia®, Vaseline®), but I’ll link to the a few bucks a year one only because it was the cheapest I could find (please let me know if you can find a better deal and I’ll switch the link!). I certainly don’t endorse the other types of products they sell (such as fish oil, red yeast rice, spirulina, and weight loss pills). The supplement industry has a history of making misleading claims, much like the dairy industry, which I profile in today’s video-of-the-day on milk and mucus.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

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