Skip to content

Do I need to take a B12 supplement?

Ask an Expert: Karina Inkster

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that is required for the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, as well as the production of red blood cells. It’s made by bacteria, not by animals or plants.

Animal products contain B12 because the animals themselves were fed B12 supplements, and because animals are exposed to manure in their living conditions (some are even fed it!).

If you eat a plant-based diet, it’s easy to get B12 from fortified foods such as non-dairy milks, cereals, nutritional yeast, and more. It’s a good idea to supplement anyway, because our bodies excrete any excess B12, and you don’t want to risk the serious consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Others who should consider supplementing with B12:

  • Older adults: The body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food decreases with age.
  • People with digestive disorders: Certain digestive disorders, such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease, can interfere with the body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food.
  • People who have had certain weight loss surgeries: Gastric bypass surgery or other weight loss surgeries can cause the body to absorb fewer nutrients from food, including vitamin B12.

Regardless of your diet, you should get your B12 levels checked every few years. Make sure to speak to your health-care provider before starting any supplements.

Karina Inkster is a qathet region health and fitness coach, author of five books, and host of the No-B.S. Vegan podcast.

If you have expert advice to share with Peak readers, email [email protected] for submission details.

Join the Peak's email list for the top headlines right in your inbox Monday to Friday.