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Meat supplies 40% of total vitamin B12 intake on average

by 5m Editor
27 October 2005, at 12:00am

THE NETHERLANDS - Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products. On average, 40% of our total intake of this vitamin is supplied by meat. Vitamin B12 is vital for the synthesis of red blood cells and DNA and for maintaining a healthy nervous system.

Meat supplies 40% of total vitamin B12 intake on average - THE NETHERLANDS - Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products. On average, 40% of our total intake of this vitamin is supplied by meat. Vitamin B12 is vital for the synthesis of red blood cells and DNA and for maintaining a healthy nervous system.

Vitamin B12 is linked to dietary protein in food and is absorbed by the body at several stages during the digestion process. It is more readily absorbed from meat than from fish or eggs. Dairy products are another important source, accounting for a further 40% of intake (29.5% from milk, 10.5% from cheese).

Vitamin B12 is essential for the synthesis of red blood cells and also helps maintain a healthy nervous system. A deficiency of vitamin B12 disrupts DNA production, resulting in a form of anaemia (pernicious anaemia). Damage to the nervous system is another consequence of B12 deficiency. The insulating fatty sheath (myelin) surrounding the nerves can then be affected. The symptoms are memory loss, tingling in the fingers (paresthesia) and coordination problems (ataxia).

Vegetarians are actually the only group with a low intake of vitamin B12. The daily recommended amount of vitamin B12 for adults is 2.8 micrograms. The average intake in the Netherlands is well over that figure, at 4.3 micrograms a day. The body can store vitamin B12 in the liver. With an average consumption of dairy products, however, vegetarians are getting too little vitamin B12. Only by eating meat at least two or three times a week (with average consumption of dairy products and eggs) can people ensure that they get the recommended daily amount of vitamin B12.

Other risk groups, besides vegetarians, are elderly people and pregnant women. In the case of the elderly, the problem is not so much intake, but reduced absorption. Research conducted on a healthy, independent group of people between the ages of 74 and 80 showed that almost a quarter had a slight vitamin B12 deficiency. The precise cause of reduced absorption will need to be researched further. Pregnant women require extra vitamin B12 because of increased cell production and synthesis of genetic material. With a low level of vitamin B12 in the body, the risk of having a baby with spina bifida is three and a half times greater.

Source: Dutch Meat Board - 27th October 2005

5m Editor