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Vitamin B12 for Older People
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, which means it is found/travels through the body in the blood. B12 can be found naturally in some foods, added to other foods e.g. breakfast cereals, and available as a dietary supplement or prescribed medication. B12 is an important vitamin as it is required for normal nerve function and the production of DNA.
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products such as eggs, meat, fish, milk and milk products. Plants generally do not contain vitamin B12, but vegetarians can get their B12 from fortified foods such as breakfast cereal and soymilk.
Recommended intake Vitamin B12 for older people
Older people are at greater risk of B12 deficiency due to age-related changes that occur in the stomach and intestines, which can decrease the absorption of B12 from food. Common medications such as anti-reflux medication can also cause a decrease in B12 absorption. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include memory loss, confusion, difficulty in concentrating, irritability, and tingling or numbness in hands and feet. In older people B12 deficiency can easily be mistaken for dementia as the symptoms are similar.
The Ministry of Health recommends that older people aged 65+ get 2.4ug of B12 per day. Ug may be a new metric some of you are coming across; it stands for microgram and 1 microgram is equal to 0.001 milligram. But all you need to take away from this is that 2.4ug is an extremely small value.
Food Sources of Vitamin B12
Here are some great sources of Vitamin B12, that can help you reach your daily target of 2.4ug
Animal foods high in B12 include:
- Liver, fish (e.g. salmon or canned tuna), beef, eggs, milk, and milk products e.g. yoghurt & cheese
Non-animal foods high in B12 include:
- Fortified cereals, fortified nondairy milk, nutritional yeast, and marmite.
If you do not consume many of the animal foods mentioned above and believe your B12 intake will come from non-animal food products it is important you are purchasing products that are fortified. If a non-dairy milk or a cereal is fortified it will be displayed on the package either as a health claim on the front of the packet or in the nutrition information panel.
For example the nutrition information panel for soymilk may contain Vitamin B12 and in this example if you consume 1 serve (250mL) you will receive 1ug of B12 which equates to 50% of the recommended daily intake of B12 (2.4ug). It is important to check the products you buy as not all soy milks and cereals are fortified.
If you are worried about your B12 levels please visit your doctor.