Im generally not an advocate for taking anything from a pill bottle. Medicines should be kept to a minimum. Vitamins and nutrients are best absorbed from wholesome food and not from a tablet.
When it comes to vitamin B12 though, I make an exception. Many vegetarian and vegan yogis are simply not getting enough. Consequently, theyre slowly and insidiously harming their brains and nerves and potentially increasing their risk for various cancers.
How much vitamin B12 should you get every day?
The absolute bare minimum is 1 microgram per day, the average amount lost from the body in 24 hours. The US recommended daily allowance (RDA) for most adults is 2.4 micrograms. Recent evidence suggests weshould be getting 4 micrograms every day to ward off subtle brain dysfunction like depression and memory deficits as well as to prevent serious morbidity like dementia and stroke.
Animal products contain relatively high-levels of bacterially produced, naturally occurring vitamin B12. Omnivores generally meet even the higher requirements mentioned above. On the other hand, yogis following traditional Yoga advice dont eat any form of meat including fish. That leaves them with only a few naturally occurring sources such as dairy products, which are recommended for consumption by the classic texts, and eggs. Beyond that, its supplements in the form of fortified foods or pills.
How can vegetarians get enough naturally occurring vitamin B12?
To reach the absolute bare minimum to replace the average 1 microgram lost from the body daily without some from of supplementation, you must be drinking or eating:
- 2 cups of milk every day or
- 1 cup of yogurt every day or
- 1 cup of cottage cheese every day
- 5 ounces of mozzarella cheese every day or
- Any other form of cheese in adequate amounts or
- 20 eggs every day or
- A proportional mix of milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs
These values take into consideration the bioavailability of the vitamin within its source. For example, eggs contain a substance that inhibits absorption in the intestines. Although each egg contains 0.6 micrograms of vitamin B12, it is only 9% available, so the effective dose from eating one egg is only roughly 0.06 micrograms. The vitamin B12 within milk, cheese, and yogurt is only 65% bioavailable. Of the 1.5 micrograms in one cup of yogurt, only .98 micrograms gets absorbed.
To meet the higher safety standard of the US RDA, youd need to more than double the amounts of milk products and eggs listed above. The recommendations are based not on what is average (1 microgram per day), but on what would cover 98 or 99% of the population – because everyone isnt average. Were all a little different when it comes to the subtleties of physiology.
For the highest level recommendations according to recent research, 4 micrograms, youd have to quadruple the amounts on the list. Eight cups of milk, four cups of yogurt, 20 ounces of mozzarella cheese, or 80 eggs in a day – or any proportionate combination of them is definitely WAY too much!