As an elderly caregiver, you might be asking what the ideal Vitamin B12 dosage is for seniors. In this article, we will be discussing all Vitamin B12, its benefits, importance, and recommended dosage. As we get older, our bodies do not absorb minerals and vitamins like they used to. That is why most seniors experience vitamin and nutrient deficiencies which may affect overall health.
The most common deficiencies among seniors include Calcium, Magnesium, Vitamin E, Vitamin D, and B Vitamins. B vitamins are very crucial for various physiological functions. Vitamin B12 in particular helps the body produce red blood cells, maintain brain health, form genetic material, and balance homocysteine in our blood.
What is Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is also known as Cobalamin. It is one of the essential vitamins our body needs to perform various physiological functions. Vitamin B12 is usually found in dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Meat products such as fish, poultry, beef, pork, and lamb are also high sources of Vitamin B12.
Key Functions of Vitamin B12
One of the vital roles of Vitamin B12 is that it helps the body produce red blood cells and nerve tissues that are responsible for transmitting signals between the brain and the cells. It is also water-soluble, meaning it is easily absorbed by the body.
Other key functions of Vitamin B12 include:
- Helps in cardiovascular function
- Maintains healthy brain function
- Maintains healthy function of the nervous system
- Contributes to the development of genetic materials: DNA and RNA
- Regulates levels of Homocysteine, an amino acid which, with high levels, causes chronic illnesses.
Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 provides many benefits to our bodies including:
- Helps prevent Anemia - Vitamin B12 plays a key role in the production of red blood cells. Having a Vitamin B12 deficiency will reduce the production of red blood cells and cause anemia. Our red blood cells are small and round, they flow freely in our bloodstream. However, people with Vitamin B12 deficiency may have larger and oval-shaped red blood cells. Its large size may hinder its healthy flow in the bloodstream which may cause megaloblastic anemia.
- Helps prevent Osteoporosis - Another key role of Vitamin B12 is that it maintains proper bone health. Various studies have investigated the relationship between Vitamin B12 to bone health and most studies concluded that people with Vitamin B12 deficiency have weaker, hollower, and more fragile bones.
- May prevent birth defects - During pregnancy, the fetus needs enough Vitamin B12 to develop a healthy brain and nervous system. Several studies concluded that being Vitamin B12 deficient during pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects.
- May enhance mood and prevent depression - According to a study, Vitamin B12 can help increase one’s mood by helping the body synthesize and metabolize serotonin, a hormone responsible for the “feel good” feeling of a person.
- Helps prevent neuron loss - Brain atrophy or the loss of neurons in the brain is linked to Vitamin B12 deficiency. That’s why regular intake of Vitamin B12-rich foods together with foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids helps boost brain function.
- Reduce the risk of Macular Degeneration - Vitamin B12 helps reduce the risk of Macular Degeneration among older adults. This disease involves loss of central vision. According to studies, Macular Degeneration is partly caused by high levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream. Vitamin B12 helps regulate homocysteine, thus reducing one’s risk of the disease.
- Improve heart health - Homocysteine is also linked to heart diseases. Though there’s still no concrete evidence that Vitamin B12 indeed improves heart health, it’s still believed to contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system since it has a key role in regulating homocysteine levels in the bloodstream.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency happens when your body cannot absorb enough Vitamin B12 from the food you eat. Vitamin B12 is not naturally produced by our body, rather it is absorbed from the foods that we eat with the help of stomach acid. That’s why it’s crucial to eat foods that are rich in B12 such as poultry, fish, meat, and dairy products. However, as we age, the acid in our stomach starts to decline. Thus, older adults tend to have Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Fatigue and dizziness
- Hallucinations or paranoia
- Pale or yellow skin
- Inflamed tongue
- Difficulty walking
- Numbness in different areas of the body
Effects of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
If Vitamin B12 deficiency is left untreated, the patient may experience its long-term effects such as:
- Weak red blood cell production
- Weight loss
- Appetite loss
- Digestive issues
- Poor nerve function
- Weaker bones
- Increased risk of Dementia or Alzheimer’s
Recommended Vitamin B12 Dosage for Seniors
Typically, the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of Vitamin B12 among people aged 14 and above is 2.4 micrograms. This amount can be easily compensated with a healthy and well-balanced diet. However, this might not be the case for seniors.
Your body absorbs Vitamin B12 from the food you eat with the help of stomach acid. However, since age affects how stomach acid functions, the body cannot absorb enough Vitamin B12 resulting in Vitamin B12 deficiency. That’s why most seniors may need to take higher amounts of Vitamin B12 compared to younger people.
According to a study, about 20 percent of adults aged 60 and above have less optimal blood levels of Vitamin B12. Thus, the poor absorption of this nutrient implies the need to compensate for it through supplements and fortified foods. Fortified foods refer to foods that have added vitamins and minerals in them to boost one’s consumption of the needed nutrients.
The ideal dosage of Vitamin B12 for seniors may depend on some underlying conditions or on how severe the deficiency is. In most cases, administering 500 micrograms of Vitamin B12 works for seniors with mild deficiencies. However, in more severe cases, doctors may administer up to 1,000 micrograms of Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin is one of the essential nutrients needed by our body to perform various physiological functions including red blood cell generation, brain health improvement, genetic material development, and more. I hope this article helped you become aware of the benefits, importance, and recommended dosage of Vitamin B12 among seniors.