Vitamin B12 for Kids: Learn Why It’s Essential
- Vitamin B12 is one of the eight essential B vitamins because it supports vital health functions, such as cognitive development and neurological functioning.
- Low vitamin B12 levels can lead to unwanted implications like pernicious anemia.
- Make it a priority to get enough vitamin B12 in your kid's diet through whole foods and/or supplements.
Vitamin B12 for kids is an essential vitamin with numerous health benefits. It helps your nervous system, cognitive functions, and immune system run smoothly. Not to mention, this antioxidant is the defining factor for optimal heart health and a healthy red blood cell count.
But what happens when your child doesn't get enough vitamin B12 into their system? We don’t want to cause alarm, but the repercussions can be wide-ranging. Read on to find out the side effects of vitamin B12 deficiency and what you can do to stop it from happening.
Vitamin B12 for Kids: Back to the Basics
Before we go into what you really want to know, let's start with the basics. Firstly, vitamin B12 for kids (or cobalamin) is one of the eight water-soluble B vitamins:
- Thiamine (vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- Niacin (vitamin B3)
- Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- Pyridoxine (vitamin B6)
- Biotin (vitamin B7)
- Folate or synthetic folic acid (vitamin B9)
- Cobalamin (vitamin B12)
What does it mean to be part of the "essential vitamin" club? Simply put, the human body doesn't produce vitamin B12. That's why adults and children need to consume it through their diets to replenish their vitamin B12 supply every day.
Vitamin B12 for kids (and adults) exists in both natural and synthetic forms:
- Cyanocobalamin (synthetic)
- Methylcobalamin (natural)
- Adenosylcobalamin (natural)
- Hydroxocobalamin (natural)
While all of the above help boost your body's vitamin B12 reserves, research shows that the natural versions are superior to the synthetic stuff in terms of bioavailability and product safety. That's why at Llama Naturals, we choose to use methylcobalamin in our Plant-Based Multivitamin for both kids and adults.
The Importance of Vitamin B12 for Kids
So, what are the health benefits of vitamin B12 for kids? It turns out there are quite a few:
- Vitamin B12 is a key ingredient in the production of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). This genetic material is needed for cell division and growth so that your little one grows up strong and healthy.
- Research shows that vitamin B12 does wonders for the immune system, too. So long, germs and other nasties!
- Vitamin B12 for kids plays a star role in various aspects of neurological development. This has vital trickle-down effects on cognitive development — think intellectual skills like learning, memory, and focus to master those ABCs and beyond.
- Cobalamin promotes better heart health. A shortage of this B vitamin can lead to a surge in homocysteine levels (an amino acid that damages the arteries).
- Vitamin B12, along with folate and iron, is needed to make red blood cells. If your kid's body isn't able to absorb vitamin B12, this could trigger pernicious anemia, a form of megaloblastic anemia.
Vitamin B12 is important for your loved one's overall well-being. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends the following optimal dosages in micrograms (mcg) for different age groups:
- 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
(Note: If you're pregnant or breastfeeding, aim for 2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg, respectively.)
Is Your Child Lacking Vitamin B12?
As parents, one of our biggest nightmares is that our kids don't get the nutrients they need.
In the case of vitamin B12 deficiency, statistics place it at around 6% for those younger than 60 years old in developed countries like the United States. You may think this isn't something to worry about. But more research warns that this seemingly rare health condition may be more common among kids than we think.
Suspect your child isn't getting enough vitamin B12? Look out for red flags such as:
- Poor appetite
- Muscle weakness
- Developmental delays, such as speech delays
- Impaired motor skills
Because the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency in kids are non-specific in nature, healthcare providers often find it challenging to accurately diagnose this issue.
According to NutritionFacts.org, vitamin B12 deficiency is notoriously known as “The Great Masquerader.” That's because it triggers almost every symptom under the sun, from breathlessness and cramping to fatigue and cognitive disturbances. In fact, low vitamin B12 levels have been mistaken for autism among kids.
Too-low B12 levels can begin at birth. Roughly 25% of pregnant women don't get enough vitamin B12, no matter if they’re on a vegetarian diet or not. As a result, the affected baby may be deficient in vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 insufficiency could also be a case of malabsorption. When you consume cobalamin, your stomach produces a glycoprotein called intrinsic factor. This vital protein helps your body take in vitamin B12 in the small intestine. A lack of intrinsic factor means that your digestive system isn't physically able to absorb the micronutrient you need. This, in turn, leads to pernicious anemia.
Get a Vitamin B12 Test
If you're worried that your little one may be at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency, it's best to get them tested. A vitamin B12 test measures the amount of cobalamin in the blood or urine.
There are other ways to rule out vitamin B scarcity. For instance, methylmalonic acid and homocysteine are said to be more accurate indicators of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Depending on your kid's symptoms, your pediatrician may also recommend a folic acid (vitamin B9) test to rule out folate deficiency. That's because a folate shortage is often mistaken for vitamin B12 deficiency. This could lead to megaloblastic anemia, in which the body suffers from a lower-than-normal concentration of unusually large red blood cells.
Whole Food Sources of Vitamin B12 for Kids
Thinking of which foods contain vitamin B12 for kids? For the most part, this micronutrient usually appears in animal products like lean meat. But what if you're a vegan or vegetarian?
While most plant sources don't provide enough vitamin B12 for kids, there are rare exceptions. You could also try vitamin B12-fortified foods like breakfast cereals. But, as we all know, these foods are usually processed in nature, with high doses of sugar, salt, and/or fat.
So, what's the solution? Hint: It's in the next section.
How to Supplement Vitamin B12 for Kids
For plant-eaters, your best bet is a vitamin B12 supplement to help you meet your daily intake. Even if you follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet (you consume dairy products), it's still prudent to supplement vitamin B12. The same goes for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
There are various types of dietary supplements to choose from, depending on your child’s unique needs. Maybe they need more than just vitamin B12. In this case, pick a multivitamin to cover all your bases. One good option is Llama Naturals' Plant-Based Multivitamin. It's a gummy that’s packed with vitamin B12, vitamin C, and vitamin D, to name a few. On the flip side, if you're interested in only cobalamin, you can go for either a B-complex or single-nutrient supplement.
It turns out the chewable vitamin B12 supplements have an edge here. As NutritionFacts.org explains, "Absorption is boosted when the B12 mixes with saliva, since you secrete a B12 binding protein from your salivary glands that help transport B12 safely through the digestive tract." In fact, people who chew a B12 supplement increased their cobalamin content by ten-fold over those who didn't!
Get Enough Vitamin B12 for Kids With Llama Naturals
Vitamin B12 puts the "essential" in "essential vitamin." It's fundamental for your kid's brain, heart, circulatory, and immune health, to name a few. Not getting enough cobalamin in their diet poses a massive headache (and heartache) for you as a parent.
That's why Llama Naturals created a Plant-Based Multivitamin in a delicious strawberry (or cherry!) flavor. Our whole-food gummy vitamins are made of 13 natural vitamins from real fruit and vegetables, sans the added sugars and synthetics. This way, you can safely supplement your little one’s vitamin B12 levels with peace of mind.
Llama Naturals is a plant-based nutrition brand that has created the World's First Whole Fruit Gummy Vitamins that are made with no added sugar and whole-food vitamins. They are USDA Organic, Vegan, Gluten-Free, free of common allergens, and are slow-cooked on low heat to retain rich phytonutrients & fruit flavor. It’s a win-win gummy vitamin that the whole family will love.