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Vitamin B12: How Much Do You And Your Vegan Kids Need?

by | September 28, 2019

B12 — clearly a hot topic among armchair nutritionists — is a common objection to the vegan lifestyle most vegan parents will have to discuss at least once… but how important is it really?

Well, the short answer is very.

That said, plant-based health professionals agree that meeting your and your children’s B12 requirements is certainly achievable on a supplemented plant-based diet.

b12 Gummy
B12 is a hot topic among vegans (Source: J. A. Dunbar/Shutterstock.com)

Expecting Vegans

When it comes to expecting vegans, it’s best to continue to take a B12 supplement during pregnancy and breastfeeding. In fact, they may require more than the recommended dose for adults.

B12 For Kids

According to the National Academy of Medicine, the daily recommended intake for B12 varies by age. These requirements are listed below.

  • 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 and up: 2.4 mcg

However, some plant-based professionals recommend more.

“The Vegan RD,” Ginny Kisch Messina, MPH, RD recommends that “toddlers should get a small chewable B12 supplement providing around 10 micrograms of cyanocobalamin per day, and preschoolers/school-aged kids should get around 15 to 20 micrograms per day.”

Okay, so perhaps it’s better to be safe than sorry — but can you take too much?

What About B12 Overdose?

While some vitamins can cause harm when taken in excess, such as fat-soluble vitamins A and K which build up in fat stores, vitamin B12 is water soluble and will be flushed out in your urine if taken in excess. Therefore, you cannot overdose on vitamin B12.

According to Healthline, no Tolerable Upper Intake Level (or UL) has been established for the supplement as it has a very low level of toxicity. While there have been some negative side effects recorded with extremely high dosages, studies have demonstrated that daily oral supplements of 2 mg (2,000 mcg) are safe and effective — for vegans and nonvegans alike.

That said, it is important to not go overboard with any kind of supplementation. With B12 being excreted via the kidneys, it can put strain on the body if overused. However, there’s a reason that no upper limit has been set. Even after decades of scientific studies, almost no symptoms of overdose are known to follow the administration of “megadoses.” This is no doubt because of the body’s limited ability to absorb more than it needs.

B12 Sources

While some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeast products, and soy foods are fortified with the essential vitamin, they may not be the best source. 

According to Veggie Fit Kids founder Yami Cazorla-Lancaster, DO, MPH, MS, FAAP, the most reliable way to ensure adequate B12 levels is to take a supplement. These can be found in chewable, sublingual, tablet and liquid forms and are best taken on an empty stomach for maximum absorption power.

Vegans looking to supplement B12 will also want to be careful to choose a product that is in fact vegan. Not all of them are, and some even contain milk.

B12
Are you getting enough? (Source: Yeexin Richelle/Shutterstock.com)

Why Vitamin B12 Matters and What To Look Out For

Vitamin B12 is essential for central nervous system function, the production of blood cells, cell metabolism, nerve and immune function, and the production of DNA and RNA.

“The vitamin is produced by microbes (bacteria) on the earth.” writes Yami Cazorla-Lancaster, DO, MPH, MS, FAAP.

“Deficiency can cause anemia, tingling in the hands and feet, fatigue, and other neurologic symptoms, some of which are serious and some which may be irreversible.” 

According to The Vegan Society, very low B12 intakes can cause anemia and nervous system damage and infants typically show more “rapid onset of symptoms” than adults. B12 deficiency may lead to loss of energy and appetite.

Other symptoms of deficiency that your child might exhibit include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • A tender tongue
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Pale skin
  • Poor appetite

Parents should not rely solely on the information in this article, but also consult a licensed medical professional. No content on RaiseVegan.com should take the place of medical counsel.

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