Vitamin B12 is a powerhouse. It helps make DNA, nerve and blood cells, and is crucial for a healthy brain and immune system. Your metabolism wouldn’t run smoothly without it.
But B12 isn’t like other vitamins. It’s only found in animal products like eggs, meat, shellfish, and dairy. Up to 15% of people don’t get enough B12, and they’re more likely to be vegetarians, have celiac disease or other digestion problems, or be an adult over 50.
The signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include exhaustion, rapid heartbeat, brain fog, and other symptoms, says Maggie Moon, RD, a Los Angeles–based nutritionist and owner of Everyday Healthy Eating.
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal products. So if your diet largely consists of plant-based foods such as fruits, veggies, beans, and soy, you’re at risk for deficiency.
Older individuals also often have poorer appetites and food intakes, and they may be on medications that can further reduce stomach acid levels. In fact, some seniors actually lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food at all, and must get it via supplements or, if the deficiency is severe, injections.