Vitamin B12 for plant-based kids. Why does it matter, where does it come from, and how much do children need? Here’s what you need to know.
When you decide to transition to a vegan diet, or raise a predominantly plant-based family, one of the first questions you may be faced with is where you’re going to get vitamin B12.
Rightfully so, as vitamin B12 is a very important nutrient that does require extra attention on a fully plant-based diet.
The good news is that it’s not hard to meet your child’s vitamin B12 needs, even if they’re being raised on plants.
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble B vitamin also known as cobalamin.
It’s essential for many physiological processes, such as cell metabolism and DNA synthesis. It also helps in the formation of red blood cells to prevent megaloblastic anemia. It keeps nerves and blood vessels healthy. B12 plays a critical role in growth and development.
The main food sources of vitamin B12 are primarily animal products.
However, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t because all animals just naturally produce it themselves. Vitamin B12 is made by microorganisms in soil.
Most animals get vitamin B12 from eating plants that grow in B12- rich soil or from B12-fortified feed.They’re also exposed to bacteria-rich manure and unsanitized water, which helps B12 accumulate in their bodies.
Humans make some B12 in our intestinal tracts as well, but it’s unclear as to how much is actually bioavailable and can be utilized that way. As such, external sources are needed.
Best sources of vitamin B12 for plant-based kids
Given how important vitamin B12 is for growth and development, it’s essential to make sure your child gets enough of it.
At one time, plant foods were a better source of vitamin B12. However, due to agricultural antibiotic and pesticide use, as well as hygienic food practices today, vitamin B12 is not found reliably in plant-based sources and also has low absorption rates.
This makes it important for plant-based kids and adults to receive it elsewhere.
It’s worth noting that many plant-based dairy alternatives – like certain soy, oat, hemp, and pea milks – are fortified with vitamin B12 and can be beneficial to incorporate into your family’s routine.
B12-fortified nutritional yeast is another source that we enjoy using in our homes, in recipes like our 10 Minute Vegan Mac and Cheese.
Be sure to check the product label to verify whether something has vitamin B12 in it, and how much can be found in one serving.
Even though it’s a good idea to incorporate B12-rich foods in your child’s regular diet, the most reliable source for kids is a B12 supplement.
Vitamin B12 Supplements for Kids
Vitamin B12 supplements are easy to give, inexpensive, and accessible at most grocery stores, drug stores, or online. They often come in liquid sprays or are included in children’s multivitamins.
Vitamin B12 supplements come in many forms, such as cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, and hydroxocobalamin.
Some research in adults shows that the bioavailability of these forms is similar. Other research suggests that to achieve adequate intake, higher amounts of the methyl and adenosyl forms are best.
Research in children is sparse and mainly done on cyanocobalamin, but this form is less likely to be found in individual B12 supplements.
While we err on the side of caution when it comes to recommending a cyanocobalamin supplement, all B12 forms are okay.
Vitamin B12 needs for children
The requirements for vitamin B12 are small, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important to pay attention to where it comes from.
Furthermore, the absorption rate for vitamin B12 is fairly small, so doses significantly above the RDA are recommended to meet needs.
Below are the vitamin B12 RDA in micrograms (mcg) for children:
- 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
- 14-18 years: 2.4 mcg
Vitamin B12 Doses for Children
To meet needs, we recommend the following B12 dosing for children. Note that these offer different options for supplementing twice daily once daily, or twice per week.
- 1-3 years:
- 0.8-1.5 mcg twice daily
- 10-40 mcg once daily
- 375 mcg twice weekly
- 4-8 years:
- 1.0-2.0 mcg twice daily
- 13-50 mcg once daily
- 500 mcg twice weekly
- 9-13 years:
- 1.5-2.5 mcg twice daily
- 20-75 mcg once daily
- 750 mcg twice weekly
Pregnant women on a plant-based diet should be taking at least 25 mcg/day from supplements. Nursing mothers should be getting at least 30 mcg/day to make sure it transfers to baby via breast milk.
Formula-fed babies will receive all of their vitamin B12 needs from formula.
There is no upper limit for vitamin B12.
Meeting the requirements of vitamin B12 for plant-based kids can be easily achieved with a diet that incorporates a variety of B12- fortified foods and an appropriate B12 supplement.
For more detail about the best supplements for plant-based kids, including brand recommendations for vitamin B12 and other micronutrients, grab your copy of our comprehensive Supplement Guide.
Chime In: What other questions do you have about vitamin B12 for kids?
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