Vitamin B12 Dosage For Seniors
As we age, our bodies undergo many changes. One of the most common changes is a decline in our ability to absorb nutrients from food. This can lead to deficiencies in vital vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12.
A lack of vitamin B12 can have serious consequences, so it’s important for seniors to make sure they’re getting enough of this nutrient.
In this post, we’ll talk about the recommended dosage of vitamin B12 for seniors and how to make sure you’re getting enough. Let’s get started!
- All vitamins offer benefits to seniors, including increased energy and enhanced metabolism,but vitamin B12 is a vitamin that many of us are lacking.
- You can get vitamin B12 through food sources like red meat, chicken, eggs, and dairy, but many seniors are deficient due to a poor diet, medications, or the simple effects of aging.
- The recommended vitamin B12 dosage is 2.5 mcg. You may need to take a higher dose if you have underlying conditions that make it difficult for your body to metabolize these nutrients.
What Are the Benefits of Vitamins for Seniors?
There are a few reasons to consider taking vitamins if you’re a senior. For B12, these include:
- Improved nutrition, particularly if you have a poor diet
- Enhanced energy
- Better eye and brain health
- Protection against free radicals
- Prevention of chronic diseases
- Enhanced metabolism and DNA formation
- Improved production of red blood cells
Some vitamins like vitamin B12 can even provide specific-condition relief, helping to address things like weight management, cognition, stress reduction, immunity, and more. Vitamin B12 is best known for its ability to improve your energy levels and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Why Vitamin B12 for Seniors?
Before we get into the dirty details about how much vitamin B12 seniors should have, let’s clear up a few things.
First, at what age are we considered senior? The AARP sends membership invitations to adults 50+ while the Social Security Administration lets you apply for Medicare at age 65. So the jury is still out in terms of what age you’re actually qualified to be considered a senior! But generally, a senior is someone who is older than 50 to 65 years old.
Whether you’re a senior or not, it’s important to be aware of the physiological changes that occur in your body as you age. You might notice thinning or graying hair, wrinkled skin, increased fat around your abdomen, less muscle mass, and difficulty reading without glasses.
But you’re only as old as you feel, and one of the best ways to improve the way you feel is to start taking vitamin supplements. Vitamins and minerals are nutrients that your body needs to function normally. Your body contains only small amounts of nutrients like vitamin B12, but without even that small amount, serious problems can arise.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver. It plays a central role in cognitive function and other aspects of your general health.
Also known as cobalamin, this is an essential vitamin that mostly comes from animal sources. Beef, ham, poultry, lamb, and pork are all great sources of vitamin B12.
This nutrient plays a vital role in the creation of red blood cells. It also produces nerve tissue that transmits signals from your brain to your cells. A water-soluble vitamin, it travels via the bloodstream to help with cell function.
How can you tell if you’re deficient in B12? A blood test will do. You’ll need to see your doctor to determine whether you truly need more of this nutrient or not. If you are deficient, you’ll need to start taking a B12 supplement or adjust your diet.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies are more common in seniors because this is a nutrient that is absorbed from your food by your stomach acid. As you get older, your stomach acid begins to decrease. Therefore, it’s a good idea to get tested for deficiencies on a regular basis.
Don’t panic if you find out that you are lacking in this nutrient, though. It’s a common deficiency—the most common deficiency in the developing world.
Again, taking a vitamin B12 supplement is an easy way to address this. You can also eat foods high in B12, such as:
- Fortified breakfast cereal
- Fish and shellfish (trout, clams, tuna, and salmon are some of the best)
- Low-fat dairy products
Benefits of Vitamin B12
As mentioned earlier, vitamin B12 is essential because it plays a significant role in nerve health, metabolism, brain function, and blood health.
It is also known for its ability to metabolize an amino acid known as homocysteine. It’s linked to cognitive decline in Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s, so being chronically deficient in vitamin B12 may elevate your risk for symptoms of these diseases.
This vitamin is also involved in the production of energy. That’s why you might feel tired or dizzy if you’re deficient. It creates and reproduces red blood cells, so if you are deficient, you may be at more risk of getting sick with colds, flues, and other contagious diseases.
There are some studies that demonstrate that vitamin B12 is necessary for bone and vision health. Low levels have been linked to osteoporosis and even macular degeneration.
Leave a vitamin B12 deficiency untreated and you may find yourself suffering from a number of health problems. These include:
- Decreased motor function
- Poor balance
- Difficulty remembering information
How Do I Know If I Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiencies can present themselves in numerous ways. It can sometimes be tough to tell if you’re deficient in the nutrient or if you’re simply showing signs of aging.
Deficiencies are often confused for symptoms of conditions like:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cardiovascular disease
- Depression and anxiety
- Multiples sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
You might notice symptoms that vary in severity. These can include:
- Brain fog
- Cognitive decline
- Memory loss
- Decreased mobility
- Body aches and pain
Other common signs that you’re not getting enough vitamin B12 include:
- Hallucinations or paranoia
- Yellowed skin
- Difficulty walking
- Tingling in your extremities
- A swollen and inflamed tongue
Over time, a severe vitamin B12 deficiency can have a lasting impact. It can cause issues like a lowered metabolism, poor red blood cell formation, bad bone health, poor nerve functioning, and more. Vitamin B12 is also the deficiency that is most closely linked to neurological problems like dementia.
How Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency Diagnosed?
If you’re having any of the symptoms listed above, it might be tempting to diagnose yourself and start taking a vitamin B12 supplement. While supplementing isn’t inherently harmful, you need to be careful about supplementing without running it past your doctor first.
That’s because many of the signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are very similar to the symptoms of other dangerous diseases. See a doctor to get a definitive answer.
When you visit, your doctor will ask you about any symptoms you’re having. He will get a more detailed picture of your medical history and then draw blood to determine the amount of B12 in your blood. The test can identify a B12 deficiency as well as any other vitamin or mineral deficiencies.
Some doctors may also order a methylmalonic acid test. This is usually done to confirm the results of the blood test. Sometimes, you may even undergo a bone marrow biopsy. This is done to root out the source of the vitamin deficiency.
Another reason to visit your doctor if you suspect you are suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency is that it is common for people to suffer from folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies at the same time. Both nutrients are vital for blood cell production, and both can be affected (and limited) by certain medical conditions.
If you’re on a diet, you’ll be prescribed a vitamin B12 supplement. In rare cases, you may be told to take it via an injection, though this is not common. You may have to take the supplements indefinitely or just for a short period of time, until the deficiency is resolved.
Who Is Most at Risk for a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vegans and vegetarians tend to be the most at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. That’s because the most reliable source of this nutrient comes from animal products.
While you can often find vitamin B12 in fortified cereals, the most common ways to consume vitamin B12 are all through foods like:
- Cooked clams
- Beef liver
- Rainbow trout
- Chicken breast
There are other factors that put you at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Unfortunately, getting older is one of these “factors.” You are more at risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies as you age simply because your body doesn’t absorb the nutrients as effectively as it once did. Other risk factors include:
- Gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease
- A history of surgery on the digestive tract (like bowel resection or weight loss surgery)
- Taking acid-reducing medications or metformin
- Various genetic mutations, like MTRR, MTHFR, and CBS
- Pregnancy (low maternal levels have been linked to birth defects, and pregnant women have higher vitamin B12 needs – about 2.6 mcg per day instead of 2.5)
- Breastfeeding (for the same reasons listed for pregnancy)
- Regular consumption of alcoholic beverages
Ideal Vitamin B12 Dosage for Seniors
n average, a senior needs around 2.5 mcg/day of vitamin B12. This is regardless of gender or size, and it’s the same amount recommended to younger people aged 14 and up.
The exception is if you have underlying health conditions that impact how well your body absorbs vitamin B12 or if you have a severe deficiency. In some cases, high doses of 500 to 1000 micrograms per day might be necessary to reverse B12 deficiency. Again, talk to your doctor.
To figure out the proper dosage for you, you can also take a look at the dosage guidelines on your individual supplement package. Use the RDA Chart to ensure that you are meeting your requirements for nutrients via supplementation and your diet.
The right dosage for vitamin B12, as with other vitamins, often depends on whether the vitamin is fat-soluble or water-soluble. If it is water-soluble, it means that your body will expel excess amounts of these vitamins through urine—helpful if you take too many. Fat-soluble vitamins build up and accumulate in your tissues over time.
Once you get into your 60s, it’s a good idea to have your blood tested every year. This will help rule out vitamin and mineral deficiencies before they become severe.
When determining the best vitamin B12 dosage, remember that you should be taking a supplement and considering ways to get more B12 into your diet. Since this nutrient is water-soluble, you don’t have to worry about taking too much vitamin B12.
The percentage of vitamin B12 that your body can absorb from supplements isn’t very high. On average, it’s estimated that your body only absorbs about 10mc of a 500 mcg B12 supplement.
Choosing the Best B12 Supplement
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of B12 supplements on the market. To find the right one for you, consider following these tips:
- Choose a B12 supplement that is allergen-free and made without additives or artificial colors
- Buy a supplement manufactured in a certified cGMP facility
- Look for one that has independent third party testing and a solid money-back guarantee
Who Needs a Vitamin B12 Supplement?
Practically anybody can benefit from taking a vitamin B12 supplement. After all, this water-soluble vitamin does not accumulate in your fatty tissues, so it’s difficult for you to take too much.
There are some people who are at an increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Seniors are more likely to be deficient for the reasons mentioned above. Vegans are also at a higher risk, since they aren’t able to get any vitamin B12 from animal products.
You’re more likely to suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency if you have any other underlying health conditions. For instance, if you have pernicious anemia, you’re more likely to suffer from a deficiency. This condition makes it difficult for your body to produce certain proteins that are essential for the proper absorption of this nutrient.
There are other digestive disorders that can increase your risk of deficiency. Nutrients aren’t as easily absorbed, so you may need more than normal for your body to effectively utilize them. Disorders that put you at an increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
Finally, there are certain medications that can inhibit B12 absorption in seniors. One is metformin, which is a drug used to treat diabetes. Chloramphenicol is another medication that makes it harder for your body to absorb B vitamins of all kinds (including vitamin B12).
There are certain heartburn medications that can make it difficult for your body to metabolize vitamin B12 too. Proton pump inhibitors are some of the worst offenders!
Are There Side Effects of Vitamin B12 Supplements?
As a water-soluble vitamin, vitamin B12 is excreted via your urine if there is more than what your body needs.
There is no tolerable upper intake level, or UL, for vitamin B12. UL is a term that is used to refer to the maximum amount of a substance that can be taken without side effects.
In very rare cases, taking too much B12 can produce side effects (though this is rare).
These side effects include skin conditions like acne and dermatitis. This is usually only experienced with injections of vitamin B12 that are used to treat severe deficiencies, not necessarily over-the-counter supplementats.
High doses (more than 1000 mcg) have been linked to complications in people who have preexisting kidney disease.
In even rarer situations, vitamin B12 at an extremely high concentration in the blood of pregnant women was connected to a higher risk of autism in their children.
Again, although high doses of vitamin B12 have been linked to rare side effects in limited populations, it is generally safe. There’s no current recommended maximum amount of this vitamin.
Should I Take a Multivitamin?
If you’re struggling from any kind of nutritional deficiency, you might assume that taking a multivitamin with dozens of different nutrients is the way to go. In some cases, it is, but it’s important to make sure you’re taking the right supplements.
Supplements are just that; they’re additions to your regular diet. You shouldn’t take a vitamin supplement to make up for a sub-par diet.
If you’re eating a healthy diet and still suffering from a vitamin deficiency, which only a blood test can definitively determine, then a supplement can be a good choice.
Are multivitamins safe? Yes, but it’s important to consult with your medical professional first. Vitamin B12 supplements and combined multivitamins aren’t regulated by the FDA. Some vitamins may interact with certain medical conditions or medications.
The Bottom Line
As we age, our ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food decreases. This means that seniors need to pay close attention to their vitamin B12 dosage in order to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need.
There are a number of ways for seniors to get their daily dose of vitamin B12, including dietary changes, supplements, and injections.
By considering these tips, you can be sure that you’re doing everything possible to maintain your health as you age.Back to Blog