I’ll be honest, before becoming vegan, vitamin B12 was completely unknown to me. Then suddenly, everyone and their dog was advising me to supplement it.
This made me a little curious. If I’d never heard of it, just how important is this vitamin? Is it essential for our children to be getting enough of it too?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of it all, I’d just like to point out that it’s not only vegans who can be deficient in B12. Some bodies aren’t able to absorb it as well as others. This could be down to something called Pernicious Anaemia, which is a condition that affects your stomach. For your body to absorb it, B12 is mixed in your stomach with a special protein called intrinsic factor. If someone has this type of anaemia, their own immune system will attack the cells which produce intrinsic factor, making it impossible for any B12 to be absorbed.
So whether you or your child are a meat eater, vegetarian, pescatarian or vegan, you may also want to consider supplements. Please have a chat with a health professional if you have any queries.
Okay, so what is B12, and where do we get it from? B12 is a water-soluble nutrient also known as cobalamin. It is naturally found in animal products including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk and milk products. For those of us who don’t eat these, some foods have been fortified with B12. Examples include milk product alternatives, vegan spreads, breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast.
Vitamin B12 is actually formed by bacteria in soil, which is why it’s generally easier to get it from animal products. The animals are eating the grass which has grown in the soil, and therefore consuming some of the bacteria. Of course, plants also grow in this soil, and this used to be one of the ways humans got their B12. However, as we’ve become more conscious about hygiene, we now wash all of the soil off our veggies before we eat them. This, along with overfarming causing a decline in soil quality, make it much harder for us to get the B12 we need. This is why it’s no longer just vegans that are at risk of deficiency!
All vitamins do different things for us, and it seems this one is vital for us and our kids. Vitamin B12 is important in making healthy red blood cells and keeping nerves working properly. We also need it to form DNA and RNA (our genetic information) so that we can make new cells and grow. As we grow and develop, we need different levels of this vitamin in our diet. The table below details how much B12 your child will need depending on their age. The amount is the same for both males and females.
|Age||Recommended Daily Allowance of B12 (micrograms)|
|0-6 months||0.4 mcg|
|7-12 months||0.5 mcg|
|1-3 years||0.9 mcg|
| 4-8 years||1.2 mcg|
|9-13 years||1.8 mcg|
|14+ years||2.4 mcg|
Our Vegums Multivitamin for Vegans was formulated by pharmacists to contain 10 micrograms of B12 per gummy, which makes it so easy for your little ones to get what they need! Don’t be alarmed by the ‘high’ dosage: the absorption rate of synthetic B12 (cyanocobalamin) is low, so it’s better to overcompensate. As it’s water-soluble, anything that the body doesn’t need just gets flushed out!
It’s been noted that there aren’t any health risks associated with orally supplementing more than the recommended amount of B12 per day, so it’s better to be safe than sorry if you think there’s enough in your or your child’s diet! If you’d like more information on the dosage that’s right for you and your family, or you see an adverse reaction, your best bet is to consult a health professional.
Please remember that our gummies are only suitable for ages 3+ to avoid any choking hazards, so under 3s may need to stick to fortified foods or other supplement sources.
What does a deficiency look like? Well, it can be quite serious for little ones. Some children can develop a specific type of anaemia (a different type from the first one we mentioned at the beginning) where the red blood cells are larger than average, but there aren’t enough of them, resulting in a lack of oxygen travelling around the body. Things to watch out for are: fatigue, lack of appetite, pale skin and diarrhoea. A full list of symptoms can be found here.
Smaller children can suffer from developmental delays if they are not getting enough B12, and other children have found their hands and feet numbing and tingling due to nerve conduction issues.
Most of the symptoms can also be linked to many other conditions, so it’s advised to speak to your child’s doctor if you feel they may need to be tested for a B12 deficiency. One more thing to keep an eye on is folic acid intake. Folic acid can mask the symptoms of B12 deficiency, so it’s really important to supplement B12 at the same time.
Whether you currently have children, or are planning to, I’m sure you want the very best for them. So please ensure you provide them with a healthy and balanced diet, supplementing where needed, to give them the best start to life.