Vitamin B cobalamin

See "Vitamin B]2: A Challenge for Vegans" in chapter 20.

What it does:

  • Works with folate to make red blood cells.
  • Serves as a vital part of many body chemicals and so occurs in every body cell.
  • Helps your body use fatty acids and some amino acids.

Ifyou don't get enough: A deficiency may result in anemia, fatigue, nerve damage, a smooth tongue, or very sensitive skin. A deficiency of vitamin B12 can be masked—and even progress—if extra folic acid is taken to treat or prevent anemia.

For either genetic or medical reasons, some people develop a deficiency—pernicious anemia— because they can't absorb vitamin B12. They're missing a body chemical called intrinsic factor that comes from their stomach lining. This problem can be medically treated with injections of vitamin B12.

Strict vegetarians, who eat no animal products, and the infants of vegan mothers are at risk for developing a vitamin B12 deficiency. This could cause severe anemia and irreversible nerve damage. The elderly also are at risk. Including foods fortified with vitamin B12 or dietary supplements can prevent vitamin B12 deficiency. The Dietary Guidelines advise: for people over age fifty, consume vitamin B12 in its crystalline form (e.g., fortified foods or supplements).

If you consume excess amounts: No symptoms are known, but taking extra vitamin B12 to boost energy has no basis in science.

How much you need: The RDA is 2.4 micrograms daily for adults. The recommendation increases to 2.6 micrograms daily during pregnancy and 2.8 micro-grams daily during breast-feeding.

Where it's mostly found: Vitamin B12 comes from animal products—meat, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy foods. Some fortified foods may contain it.


Vitamin B12

Salmon, cooked (3 oz.)


Beef tenderloin lean,

broiled (3 oz.)


Yogurt, fat-free (1 cup)


Shrimp, cooked (3 oz.)


Milk (1 cup)


Egg, large (1)


Chicken, light meat,

skinless, roasted (3 oz.)


If you don't get enough: That's rarely a problem for healthy people who eat a healthful diet because the body also produces biotin from intestinal bacteria. In rare cases of deficiency, these symptoms may appear: heart abnormalities, appetite loss, fatigue, depression, or dry skin.

Ifyou consume excess amounts: There are no reported effects of consuming excess amounts.

How much you need: The Adequate Intake (AI) for biotin is 30 micrograms daily for adult males and females, including during pregnancy. The AI increases to 35 micrograms daily during breast-feeding.

Where it's mostly found: Biotin is found in a wide variety of foods. Eggs, liver, yeast breads, and cereals are among the best sources.


Egg, large (1) Wheat germ (V4 cup) Peanuts (^ cup) Cottage cheese (^ cup) Whole-grain bread (1 slice)

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