What Is Vitamin B12 & What Foods Can I Find It In?

Vitamin B12 is not just one vitamin. They come in several different forms and are collectively called vitamin B or cobalamins because they all contain the mineral cobalt.

Normally we get enough vitamin B12 from the food we eat.

Some people have trouble absorbing vitamin B12. It can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency.

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Vitamin B12 Is Essential For Health

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for DNA synthesis and cellular energy production. (source )

Vitamin B12 is a particularly important vitamin for women of childbearing age and older people.

Blood cells

Vitamin B12 is used in the body to make new red blood cells.

Our body uses the vitamin to make the heme component of hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin is a protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to the cells in the body.


It also plays an important role in the synthesis of the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which is a precursor to melatonin.

Melatonin is a hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle, and also promotes healthy cognition and mood.

Your whole life

Adequate vitamin B12 status over the whole life-cycle is needed for optimal health. (source )

You can find more benefits of consuming vitamin B12 in Vitamin B12: 6 Research-Backed Benefits .

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Is Common

Vitamin B12 deficiency is common.

There are two main types of Vitamin B12 deficiency:

Vitamin B12 deficiency caused by a lack of B12 in the diet. This is due to a lack of B12 in the diet or the use of antibiotics.

Vitamin B12 deficiency caused by a lack of B12-producing bacteria in the gut. This is due to poor absorption of B12 from the gut or a lack of intrinsic factors, which are required for the absorption of B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms

Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency could be difficulty maintaining balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue. (source )

Vitamin B12 deficiency among vegetarians and vegans

Vegetarians and vegans are at great risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. (source )

Because vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods like meat, poultry, eggs, fish, milk, cheese, and other dairy products.

Vitamin B12 deficiency has been reported to affect as many as 98% of vegetarian adults.

Vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly population

Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in the elderly population.

It often leads to peripheral neuropathy and dementia.

There is a marked increase in the prevalence of B12 deficiency in elderly women, but the mechanism underlying this increase is not well understood.

B12 deficiency has been also associated with increased risk of fracture, and cognitive impairment.

Two Forms Of Vitamin B12, Abundant In Animal Foods

Two forms of vitamin B12 are active in human metabolism, methylcobalamin, and 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin. (source )


Methylcobalamin is the key to the neuroprotective effect of vitamin B12, but is not required for the development of neurodegeneration in the absence of vitamin B12.


5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin is the cofactor for methylcobalamin-dependent enzymes that catalyze the conversion of amino acids, carbohydrates and lipids.

Foods You Can Find Vitamin B12 In

You find Vitamin B12 mostly in seafood, beef, lamb, veal, and game products.

Examples of food sources include

Foods in our nutrition tool

You can find regularly updated top-ranked lists of foods for over 200+ nutrients in our nutrition tool.

If you are interested in what foods contain the most Vitamin B12, we recommend you visit our tool.

Here's our top-ranked list of foods that contain Vitamin B12.

Sara Niemelä

co-founder Care Omnia, Head Content Creator

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Nutrition is my passion. I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours reading, analyzing, categorizing and comparing research studies.

I’m a wife and a mother of three. I enjoy the outdoors, cooking, and spending time with my family.