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Foods rich in vitamin B12 are especially those of animal origin, such as fish, meat, eggs and dairy products, and it performs functions such as maintaining the metabolism of the nervous system, the formation of DNA and the production of healthy red blood cells for the blood, preventing anemia.

Vitamin B12 is not present in foods of plant origin, unless they are fortified with it, that is, the industry artificially adds B12 in products such as soy, soy meat and breakfast cereals. Therefore, people with a vegan diet should be aware of the consumption of B12 through fortified foods or through the use of supplements.

List of foods rich in vitamin B12

The following table shows the amount of vitamin B12 in 100 g of each food:

foods vitamin B12 in 100 g of food 
Cooked liver steak 72,3 mcg 
Non-steam seafood 99 mcg 
Baked oysters 26,2 mcg 
Cooked chicken liver 19 mcg 
Baked heart 14 mcg 
Grilled sardines 12 mcg 
Baked herring 10 mcg 
Baked crab 9 mcg 
Baked salmon 2,8 mcg 
Grilled trout 2,2 mcg 
Mozzarella cheese 1,6 mcg 
Milk 1 mcg 
Cooked chicken 0,4 mcg 
Baked meat 2,5 mcg 
Tuna 11,7 mcg 
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Vitamin B12 is present in nature in very small amounts, and so it is measured in micrograms, which is 1000 times less than the milligram. Its consumption recommendation for healthy adults is 2.4 mcg per day. 

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the intestine and stored mainly in the liver. Therefore, the liver can be considered one of the main dietary sources of vitamin B12.

Recommended amount of vitamin B12

The recommended amount of vitamin B12 varies with age, as shown below:

From 0 to 6 months of life: 0.4 mcg

From 7 to 12 months: 0.5 mcg

From 1 to 3 years: 0.9 mcg

From 4 to 8 years: 1.2 mcg

From 9 to 13 years: 1.8 mcg

From 14 years onwards: 2.4 mcg

Along with other nutrients like iron and folic acid, vitamin B12 is essential to prevent anemia. See also iron-rich foods for anemia.

Forms of vitamin B12 and intestinal absorption

Vitamin B12 exists in several forms and is usually linked to the mineral cobalt. This set of forms of B12 is called cobalamin, with methylcobalamin and 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin being the forms of vitamin B12 active in human metabolism.

To be well absorbed by the intestine, vitamin B12 needs to be turned off from proteins through the action of gastric juice in the stomach. After this process, it is absorbed at the end of the ileum together with the intrinsic factor, a substance produced by the stomach.

People at risk of vitamin deficiency

It is estimated that about 10 to 30% of the elderly are unable to absorb vitamin B12 properly, making it necessary to use supplements in vitamin B12 capsules to prevent problems such as anemia and malfunction of the nervous system.

In addition, people who have undergone bariatric surgery or who use drugs that reduce stomach acid, such as Omeprazole and Pantoprazole, also have impaired vitamin B12 absorption.

Vitamin B12 and vegetarians

People with a vegetarian diet find it difficult to consume adequate amounts of vitamin B12. However, vegetarians who include eggs and dairy products in their diet tend to maintain good levels of B12 in the body, so there is no need for supplementation.

On the other hand, vegans normally need to take B12 supplements, in addition to increasing the consumption of cereals such as soy and derivatives fortified with this vitamin. Food fortified with B12 will have this indication on the label, showing the amount of vitamin in the nutritional information of the product.

It is important to remember that the blood test is not always a good B12 meter, as it may be normal in the blood, but deficient in the cells of the body. In addition, as vitamin B12 is stored in the liver, it can take about 5 years for the person to start showing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency or until the tests have altered results, as the body will initially consume the previously stored B12.

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