Am I getting enough B12? Are you?

I don’t know about you, but to me both dementia and anemia sound pretty scary. They can be brought on by Vitamin B12 deficiency, which is shockingly common among the elderly, those in underdeveloped countries, and vegans/vegetarians. Are you in any of these 3 groups?


The older we get the poorer our stomachs absorb what we need, so the elderly can keep eating the same diet that once gave them enoughB12 but surprisingly find that now it’s not get enough. The poorer we are the less freedom we have in choosing our food sources, so diets in the developing world are often lacking in many vitamins and nutrients, including B12. Finally there are vegans and vegetarians.


I fall into this last group (sort of), so I’m worried about whether I get enough B12. If you’re reading this, chances are than you are vegetarian too (or at least thinking about it). I’ve been trying to limit my meat consumption for a variety of reasons, but mostly health. Our bodies were not built to have meat all the time. Over 200,000 years of evolution our ancestors were selected by how well they thrive on a diet of mostly nuts and berries, some other fruits, some veggies and occasional windfalls of meat from a hunting party. So I figured that in order to avoid the increased incidence of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, etc. that are caused by our modern meat-heavy diets I would eliminate meat from what I buy. I still occasionally get small pieces of meat when social decorum would dictate (e.g. my mom’s cooking, or to avoid causing a scene with a group of friends, etc.) Ok, so I fall into a group of people who are more likely to get B12 deficiency. Why and what can I do?


B12 doesn’t occur in plants. If you only eat plants, where do you get 2.4 micrograms of B12 every day? Sure there are supplements. But why would I want to take a B12 pill or a tablespoon of yellow goo full of B-vitamins, if I’m trying to avoid taking pills. Hell, I eat healthy and run 3x per week specifically so that I won’t have to take pills. Not to mention that Most of B12 supplements go right through you thus making your pee smell a UTI. I’m looking for something that I can do while I prep my food.


If you’re pescatarian, then shellfish like clams are jam-packed B12. But eating a ton of them at once won’t help. While our livers do store B12 for later usage, our stomachs can only absorb so much in one sitting. Only the first clam would contribute anything, after that my body just lets the rest of it pass through. So adding a small clam to lunch once in a while wouldn’t be so bad. Bonus: lots of calcium too.


I love milk. A LOT. I really really love milk. Whole milk is my favorite. I learned that one cup of milk contains about half of the daily intake of B12 that I need. Also, lots of calcium. Ok, so I’ll keep drinking milk every day.


At the end of the day, it sounds like I do need to take a little bit of a supplement, and I should do so around a different meal than the one where I drink milk. I’m OK with once in a while adding a clam into my meals (again, a different meal from both milk and supplements). With those healthy habits I should be building up my supply of B12 for the days where I can’t get either a glass of milk or a supplement. Who knows, it’ll come in handy to have some in reserve for when my body stops absorbing it in old age.  What other methods have you found to boost your B12?