Do we need the 12th mark for VITEEE

Vitamin B12 supplement for blood formation, nerve function and the immune system?

What is behind the advertising for vitamin B12?

One hears again and again of a widespread vitamin B12 deficiency in the population. There is no scientific evidence to support these claims. Both calculations of vitamin B12 supply and blood tests have shown that vitamin B12 deficiency is rare. As a rule, the western diet with a high proportion of animal foods is more likely to lead to an oversupply of vitamin B12.

For vitamin B12 products, as for all other vitamins, only health-related statements that are defined in the Health Claims Regulation are permitted. These relate almost exclusively to maintaining normal body functions, for example:

  • "Vitamin B12 contributes to normal energy metabolism"
  • "Vitamin B12 contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system"
  • "Vitamin B12 contributes to normal psychological function"

Misleading statements that promise more energy, better thinking skills and good sleep when taking vitamin B12, for example, are not allowed.

What Should I Look For When Using Vitamin B12 respect, think highly of?

Most vitamin B12 products will Cyanocobalamin used. It is formed by microorganisms such as E. Coli bacteria, Pseudomonas denitrificans or propionibacteria (some of which are genetically modified), but can also be produced synthetically (more expensive). Cyanocobalamin is therefore also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

There are no organic food supplements containing cyanocobalamin. Food supplements based on algae are therefore often offered as alternatives. Spirulina products usually contain vitamin B12 analogues with no vitamin effects. For products based on Chlorella, you should ask the manufacturer about the bioavailability of the B12 to be on the safe side. However, the CVUA Baden-Württemberg has determined that too high amounts of B12 are often mentioned in algae products and therefore does not consider them to be reliable sources of B12.

The harmful consequences of an overdose have not yet been known; it was assumed that excess vitamin B12 is excreted from the body. However, studies from 2017 and 2018 show that very high daily doses (> 55 µg) are suspected of increasing the risk of lung cancer. Smokers seem to be particularly at risk. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment suggests a maximum level of 25 µg per day in food supplements.

These Vitamin compounds are in accordance with EU directive 2002/46 / EG, Annex II (version of 05.07.2017) for vitamin B12 in Germany and other EU countries in food supplements authorized:

  • Cyanocobalamin
  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin
  • Methylcobalamin

Which people are at risk of a B12 deficiency?

  • Vegans who do not take a vitamin B12 supplement on a long-term basis
  • Vegetarians who have an increased need for nutrients, e.g. during pregnancy and breastfeeding. You should make sure that you have a sufficient supply of vitamin B12 and, if necessary, take appropriate vitamin B12-containing preparations
  • People with gastric diseases: For the absorption of vitamin B12, an auxiliary substance formed in the gastric mucosa, the so-called intrinsic factor, is necessary. In the case of stomach diseases (e.g. removal of the stomach or parts of it, chronic inflammation of the gastric mucous membrane (atrophic gastritis)), the formation of this auxiliary substance can be reduced or even prevented. Older people aged 65 and over are particularly affected by this.
    Long-term use of acid blockers (antacids) or stomach protection agents (proton pump inhibitors) can also promote a vitamin B12 deficiency (and a poorer supply of magnesium).
  • People with bowel disease: Chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (insufficiently functioning pancreas) and the removal of parts of the intestine can reduce the absorption of vitamin B12 into the body. Both stomach and intestinal diseases can lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency regardless of the vitamin B12 intake.

Since vitamin B12 is stored in the liver in amounts of 2 mg to 5 mg, a deficiency often only becomes noticeable after years. Then it can come to so-called "anemia". The blood cells change in size and appearance. Noticeable symptoms of anemia are paleness, tiredness, tingling and numbness.

If left untreated, a vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the nervous system.

People who cannot produce the intrinsic factor in sufficient quantities are usually treated with high doses of vitamin B12 (intramuscular injection, e.g. every 3 months). High-dose dietary supplements do not make sense here, as they do not guarantee a reliable supply.

A vitamin B12 deficiency hardly ever occurs in healthy people. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the proportion of animal foods in the Western diet is very high. On the other hand, in healthy people, a large part of the vitamin B12 present in the body is not excreted in the digestive process, but is brought back again and again.

What does the body need vitamin B12 for?

Vitamin B12 is basically not a single vitamin. Rather, it hides a group of vitamins called "cobalamins". The cobalamins play an important role in the breakdown of certain fatty acids. Furthermore, vitamin B12 has a key function in the metabolism of folic acid and is therefore involved in blood formation.

A daily vitamin B12 intake of 4 µg is recommended for adolescents and adults aged 15 and over. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need a slightly higher amount of the vitamin, 4.5 µg and 5.5 µg per day.

For experts: These estimated values ​​are based on studies in which the necessary vitamin B12 intake was determined using the serum concentrations of the status parameters total vitamin B12 and holo-transcobalamin as well as the functional parameters methylmalonic acid (MMA) and homocysteine.

Can I cover my daily requirement with food?

Bacteria in the large intestine produce vitamin B12, but this is not sufficiently usable for the human organism. For this reason, we are absolutely dependent on vitamin B12 from food. There it is found in animal foods such as liver, muscle meat, fish and eggs. According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), a safe supply of vitamin B12 with only plant-based foods is not possible according to current knowledge. Vegans who do not consume any animal foods and therefore should forego the most important vitamin B12 suppliers Get vitamin B12 through dietary supplements. There is also toothpaste enriched with B12, but an exact dosage is not possible with it.

Very small amounts of B12 may also be found in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, lactic acid vegetables or fermented soy products. However, these are not sufficient to ensure the supply. A vitamin B12 content may only be advertised in foods if 100 grams of the food contain at least 0.375 µg B12 (15% of the nutrient reference value).

Cyanobacteria such as spirulina or AFA algae can produce vitamin B12. According to the Max Rubner Institute, however, this is largely a form of vitamin B12 (pseudo-vitamine) that cannot be used by humans. Food supplements containing these algae are therefore not a suitable source of B12. Microalgae such as chlorella, on the other hand, cannot synthesize vitamin B12 themselves, but they are able to absorb and enrich a bioavailable vitamin B12 form from the environment.

1-2 grams of dried Chlorella vulgaris could possibly meet an adult's daily requirement. A Finnish study has shown that vegans who consumed chlorella and / or the macroalga nori for a long period of time had serum levels of vitamin B12 2 times higher than the control group of vegans.

A vitamin B12 deficiency hardly ever occurs in healthy people. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the proportion of animal foods in the Western diet is very high. On the other hand, in healthy people, a large part of the vitamin B12 present in the body is not excreted in the digestive process, but is brought back again and again. Therefore, even with a very one-sided diet, a deficiency only becomes apparent after many years.

All foods of animal origin are good sources of vitamin B12. Enjoy meat, eggs and fish in moderation. Dairy products can be on the menu every day. Then you don't need to worry about a vitamin B12 deficiency!


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Fanidi A et al. Is a high vitamin B12 level a cause of lung cancer? Published online on November 29, 2018, accessed on August 2, 2019

Vitamin B12: Increased Cancer Risk Through Supplements? Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Martin Smollich, published on Nutritional Medicine Blog on February 11, 2019, accessed April 15, 2020

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Berlin district court prohibits unfair health advertising for vitamin B12 pills published by the Federal Association of Consumer Organizations on December 22nd, 2016

Pers. Communication from the Max Rubner Institute dated May 24, 2016

Rauma A-L et al. (1995): Vitamin B-12 Status of Long-Term Adherents of a Strict Un-cooked Vegan Diet ("Living Food Diet") is Compromised. J Nutr 125 (10): 2511-15

Richter M, Boeing H, Grünewald-Funk D, et al. (2016). Vegan nutrition: Position of the German Society for Nutrition e. V. (DGE). Nutritional Review 63 (4): 92-102.

Directive 2002/46 / EC of June 10th, 2002 on the harmonization of the laws of the member states on food supplements in the version of July 6th, 2017

Trumpp J; Dittrich K (2016): Where does vitamin B12 in food supplements come from? ugb forum (3): 148-9

BfR (2021): Updated maximum quantity proposals for vitamins and minerals in food supplements and fortified foods
Opinion No. 009/2021 of March 15, 2021

BfR (2021): Maximum amount proposals for vitamin B12 in foods including dietary supplements

CVUA Baden-Württemberg (2019): Vegans and vegetarians watch out - Spirulina, Afa and Chlorella are not reliable sources of vitamin B12! Status: December 17, 2019

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