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Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
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Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin, is the largest and most complex vitamin currently known to man. A slight deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia, fatigue, mania, and depression, while a long-term deficiency can cause permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system.

Vitamin B12 can only be manufactured by bacteria and can only be found naturally in animal products, however, synthetic forms are widely available and added to many foods like cereals.

Vitamin B12 can be consumed in large doses because excess is excreted by the body or stored in the liver for use when supplies are scarce. Stores of B12 can last for up to a year, which is why it takes a long time before people realize they have a deficiency in their diet.

Foods high in vitamin B12 include clams, liver, fish, crab, low-fat beef, fortified cereal, fortified tofu, low-fat dairy, cheese, and eggs. The daily value for vitamin B12 is 2.4μg per day, which has been recently reduced from 6μg per the USDA food labeling standards. (2)

Below are the top 10 foods highest in vitamin B12 by common serving sizes, click here for an extended list of vitamin B12 rich foods, and here for other foods high in vitamin B.

If you are vegetarian, see the article on vegetarian sources of vitamin B12.


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List of Foods High in Vitamin B12

1Clams
Clams

Other Shellfish High in Vitamin B12

-1020% DV in 3oz of oysters
-850% DV in 3oz of mussels
-76% DV in 3oz of scallops
3oz is equal to roughly 3 oysters, 5 mussels, and 10 small scallops respectively.

See all fish high in vitamin b12.
2Liver
Slices of liver cheese

Liver Products High in Vitamin B12

-308% DV in a 1/4 cup of liverwurst spread
-44% DV in 1 tblsp of chicken liver pate
3Fish (Mackerel)
Roasted Mackerel

Other Fish High in Vitamin B12

-771% DV in a 6oz tuna fillet
-375% DV in a 5oz trout fillet
-39% DV in 1oz of smoked salmon

See all fish high in vitamin b12, or the list of canned fish high in vitamin B12.
4King Crab
King crab legs

Other Crustaceans High in Vitamin B12

-368% DV in 3oz of dungeness crab
-187% DV in 1 cup of canned blue crab
-110% DV in 3oz of crayfish
-59% DV in 3oz of shrimp
-51% DV in 3oz of lobster
5Beef (Skirt Steak)
A steak on a plate

More Red Meat High in Vitamin B12

-112% DV in 3oz of broiled beef round
-101% DV in 3oz of lean roast buffalo
-96% DV in 3oz of roast lamb shank

See all meats high in vitamin B12.
6Fortified Cereals
Circle cereals
See the complete ranking of 200 cereals high in vitamin B12.
7Fortified Tofu
A block of tofu
-50% DV in a 8oz cup of fortified soymilk

See more vegan foods high in vitamin B12.
8Low-Fat Milk
A glass of milk

More Dairy Foods High in Vitamin B12

-57% DV in a cup of Low-Fat Yogurt
-108% DV in a 16oz glass of low fat milk
-96% DV in a 16oz glass of whole milk

See the full list of dairy foods high in vitamin B12 and the list of vegetarian vitamin B12 foods.
9Swiss Cheese
A slice of swiss cheese

Other Cheeses High in Vitamin B12

-27% DV per oz of mozzarella
-22% DV per 1/2 cup of cottage cheese
-20% DV per oz of feta

See the list of high vitamin B12 cheeses.
10Eggs
Eggs
-63% DV in 1 cup of chopped hard-boiled eggs

Eggs are also a high protein food.

See All 200 Foods High in Vitamin B12

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A printable list of the top 10 foods highest in vitamin B12.

Other Vitamin B12 Rich Foods

#1 Whelk642% DV (15.4μg) in 3oz
#2 Clam Chowder478% DV (11.5μg) in 1 cup
#3 Veggie Burgers366% DV (8.8μg) in 1 burger pattie
#4 Emu Steak332% DV (8μg) in 3oz
#5 Manhattan Clam Chowder330% DV (7.9μg) in 1 cup
#6 Energy Bars311% DV (7.5μg) in 1 bar
#7 Liver Sausage238% DV (5.7μg) in 1oz
#8 Ostrich228% DV (5.5μg) in 3oz
#9 Dried Sweet Whey143% DV (3.4μg) in 1 cup
#10 Deer128% DV (3.1μg) in 3oz
#11 Salami99% DV (2.4μg) in 3oz
#12 Scallops76% DV (1.8μg) in 3oz
#13 Rice Milk63% DV (1.5μg) in 1 cup
#14 Buttermilk47% DV (1.1μg) in 1 cup
#15 Turkey36% DV (0.9μg) in 3oz
#16 Luncheon Meat19% DV (0.5μg) in 1 slice
#17 Chicken18% DV (0.4μg) in 1 cup chopped

How much Vitamin B12 do you need?

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for Vitamin B12 ranges from 0.4 to 2.8μg per day. The daily value for vitamin B12 is 2.4μg per day, which has been recently reduced from 6μg per the USDA food labeling standards.

AgeMaleFemale
0-6 months*0.4 μg0.4 μg
7-12 months*0.5 μg0.5 μg
1-3 years0.9 μg0.9 μg
4-8 years1.2 μg1.2 μg
9-13 years1.8 μg1.8 μg
14+ years2.4 μg2.4 μg
Pregnant women require 2.6μg, and lactacting women should consume at least 2.8μg of vitamin B12.
*The amounts for children less than 12 months old is the adequate intake (AI) not RDA.
Source: Office of Dietary Supplements.

Health Benefits of Vitamin B12

  • Protection Against Heart Disease - Adequate levels of vitamins B12, B6, and B9 have been shown to lower levels of a protein in the blood: homocysteine. Lower levelsof homocysteine has been shown to improve endothelial function, which in turn may boost cardiovascular health and decrease risk of heartattacks.(4-6)
  • Protect and Repair DNA to Reduce Cancer Risk and Slow Aging - Absorption of vitamin b12 and Folate (B9) is essential for DNA metabolism and maintenance which helps to prevent cancer and slow aging.(7)
  • Protect Against Dementia and Cognitive Decline - Lack of vitamin B12 increases homocysteine levels, which in turn decreases the body's ability to metabolize neurotransmitters (8) Due to limitations with creating long term controlled studies in human populations, no definite link between increased vitamin b12 levels and cognitive function has been found,(9-13) however several observational studies suggest increased homocysteine levels increase the incidence of Alzheimer's disease and dementia,(14-16) and low levels of vitamin B12 has been associated with cognitive decline.(16)
  • Alzheimer's Protection - A study has shown that a deficiency in Vitamin B12 and Folate (B9) can double the risk of Alzheimer's Disease.(18)
  • Energy and Endurance - A lack of vitamin B12 will lead to anemia and weakness. Adequate levels of vitamin B12 are necessary to maintain normal energy levels. Claims of vitamin B12 as an energy or atheletic enhancer remain unproven.(18)

People at Risk of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  • Older Adults With Atrophic Gastritis - Atrophic Gastritis is a condition affecting 30-50% of adults over age 50 and hampers their ability to absorb vitamin B12 from natural foods. Supplements are recommended for people in this group.
  • People with Pernicious Anemia - A condition that affects 1-2% of adults andcan only effectively be treated with vitamin B12 injections or shots.
  • Vegans and Vegetarians - Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animalproducts, however there are some natural vegetarian foods high in vitamin b12.
  • Pregnant and Lactating Women who are Vegetarian or Vegan
  • People taking Certain Medications
    • Proton pump inhibitors, such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid), which are used to treat gastric or pepetic ulcer disease can inhibit absorption of vitamin B12.
    • Metformin - often used for type II diabetes, may interfere with vitmain B12 absorption in certain people.
    • Histamine antagonists, such as cimetidine (Tagamet), famotidine (Pepcid), and ranitidine (Zantac), used to treat peptic ulcer disease, can reduce absorption of vitmain B12 by slowing the release of hydrochloric acid into the stomach.
    • Bacteriostatic Antibiotics, like Chloramphenicol (Chloromycetin), can interfere with the red blood cell response to vitamin b12 supplements.
    • Anticonvulsants - Anticonvulsants have been shown to interfere with vitamin B12 and vitamin B9 (Folate) metabolism.(20-22) One study found that people taking folate supplements and anticonvulsants experienced a 50% decline in Vitamin B12 blood levels.

How much Vitamin B12 is in Brewers Yeast?

Brewers Yeast is a rich source of nutrients, typically used for making beer, but can also be used to make bread and other consumables.

There are conflicting reports on how much vitamin B12 brewers yeast provides, however, it is not wise to count on brewers yeast as your sole source of vitamin B12. Yeast which does provide it is likely fortified.

The conclusion is that you should check labels for vitamin B12 before counting on yeast to provide it.

Other Vitamin B Foods

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Data Sources and References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.
  2. New FDA Daily Values
  3. Office Of Dietary Supplements Fact Sheet
  4. Doshi SN, McDowell IF, Moat SJ, Payne N, Durrant HJ, Lewis MJ, Goodfellos J. Folic acid improves endothelial function in coronary artery disease via mechanisms largely independent of homocysteine. Circulation. 2002;105:22-6.
  5. Doshi SN, McDowell IFW, Moat SJ, Lang D, Newcombe RG, Kredean MB, Lewis MJ, Goodfellow J. Folate improves endothelial function in coronary artery disease. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 2001;21:1196-1202.
  6. Wald DS, Bishop L, Wald NJ, Law M, Hennessy E, Weir D, McPartlin J, Scott J. Randomized trial of folic acid supplementation and serum homocysteine levels. Arch Intern Med 2001;161:695-700.
  7. A Paoloni-Giacobino, R Grimble, C Pichard. Genetics and nutrition. Clinical Nutrition Volume 22, Issue 5, Pages 429-435 (October 2003)
  8. Hutto BR. Folate and cobalamin in psychiatric illness. Compr Psychiatry 1997;38:305-14.
  9. Eussen SJ, de Groot LC, Joosten LW, Bloo RJ, Clarke R, Ueland PM, et al. Effect of oral vitamin B-12 with or without folic acid on cognitive function in older people with mild vitamin B-12 deficiency: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;84:361-70.
  10. Hvas AM, Juul S, Lauritzen L, Nexo E, Ellegaard J. No effect of vitamin B-12 treatment on cognitive function and depression: a randomized placebo controlled study. J Affect Disord 2004;81:269-73.
  11. Vital Trial Collaborative Group. Effect of vitamins and aspirin on markers of platelet activation, oxidative stress and homocysteine in people at high risk of dementia. J Intern Med 2003; 254:67-75.
  12. Kang JH, Cook N, Manson J, Buring JE, Albert CM, Grodstein F. A trial of B vitamins and cognitive function among women at high risk of cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:1602-10.
  13. Aisen PS, Schneider LS, Sano M, Diaz-Arrastia R, van Dyck CH, Weiner MF, et al.; Alzheimer Disease Cooperative Study. High-dose B vitamin supplementation and cognitive decline in Alzheimer disease: a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 2008 ;300:1774-83.
  14. Clarke R. B-vitamins and prevention of dementia. Proc Nutr Soc 2008;67:75-81.
  15. Schulz RJ. Homocysteine as a biomarker for cognitive dysfunction in the elderly. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2007;10:718-23.
  16. Seshadri S, Beiser A, Selhub J, Jacques PF, Rosenberg IH, D'Agostino RB, et al. Plasma homocysteine as a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer's disease. N Engl J Med 2002;346:476-83.
  17. Clarke R, Birks J, Nexo E, Ueland PM, Schneede J, Scott J, et al. Low vitamin B-12 status and risk of cognitive decline in older adults. Am J Clin Nutr 2007;86:1384-91.
  18. Wang HX, Wahlin A, Basun H, Fastbom J, Winblad B, Fratiglioni L. Vitamin B12 and folate in relation to the development of Alzheimer?s disease. Neurology May 8, 2001 vol. 56 no. 9 1188-1194.
  19. Lukaski HC. Vitamin and mineral status: effects on physical performance. Nutrition 2004;20:632-44.
  20. Patrick Kidd and David L. Mollin. Megaloblastic Anaemia and Vitamin-B12 Deficiency After Anticonvulsant Therapy. Br Med J. 1957 October 26; 2(5051): 974?976.
  21. J.S. MALPAS, G.H. SPRAY, L.J. WITTS. Serum Folic-acid and Vitamin-Biz Levels in Anticonvulsant Therapy. British Medical Journal. 16 April 1966.
  22. Richard Hunterb, Joanna Barnesb, and D. M. Matthews. Effect Of Folic-Acid Supplement On Serum-Vitamin-B12 Levels In Patients On Anticonvulsants. The Lancet, Volume 294, Issue 7622, 27 September 1969, Pages 666-667.

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