Are Vitamin B12 Supplements Safe?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that the body needs for proper red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis, and neurological function. B12 can be found in many foods and it may be added to others. It is available in supplement form in regular and prescription strength.

Foods that naturally contain vitamin B12 include liver, clams, trout, salmon, yogurt, tuna, milk, eggs, chicken, and ham. B12 is usually added to breakfast cereals, which provide 100 percent of the daily value. At 48 micrograms (mcg) and 34.2 mcg, respectively, liver and clams contain the highest amounts of vitamin B12, while chicken has the lowest at 0.3 mcg. Liver provides 800 percent of the daily value and clams provide 570 percent. Trout provides 90 percent and salmon provides 80 percent.

It’s very easy to get enough B12 from diet alone because the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) are so low. Individuals age 14 and older need only 2.4 mcg per day. Pregnant women need only 2.6 mcg and lactating women need 2.8 mcg.

While vitamin B12 deficiency is unlikely, it is not impossible. B12 deficiencies may affect individuals with untreated anemia and the elderly because the body’s ability to absorb the vitamin decreases with age. In these cases, B12 supplements may be prescribed in either regular or prescription strength. The strength and dosage will depend on the severity of the anemia other condition.

Although it’s best to take vitamin B12 supplements under a doctor’s care, this vitamin is not dangerous. Even if taken in large amounts, a B12 overdose is highly unlikely. When taken orally, any B12 that cannot be absorbed is eliminated through the colon.

If you think you might be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, contact your doctor to discuss your concerns. He will order certain lab tests that will help confirm a deficiency. Once confirmed, he may prescribe prescription strength B12 or a low dose vitamin B12 supplement that can beurchased at any vitamin emporium or drug store.

For more information about vitamin B12 supplements, visit the Office of Dietary Supplements of the National Institutes of Health at http://ods.od.nih.gov/.

  

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