Two men jogging with each other talking about vitamin B12 for older adults

Vitamin B12 recommended dosage for older adults

Medically reviewed on May 17, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Table of contents


For many people, getting older often means taking extra special care of the body. A big part of that care is being diligent about things like exercise, diet, and providing the body with all the essential vitamins and nutrients it needs, like vitamin B12.

Because vitamin B12 can benefit the brain, red blood cell count, and every single muscle in the body, maintaining healthy vitamin B12 levels can go a long way toward keeping you active and healthy well into and beyond your retirement years.

In this guide, we’ll explore the recommended daily vitamin B12 dosage for those over 65, the benefits of B12, and signs that may indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency. (And for an easy vitamin B12 supplement option, try Everlywell B12 supplements.)

How much vitamin B12 should a person over 65 take?

For adults under the age of 65, the daily recommended dose of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms, and many adults are able to absorb this recommended amount from diet alone [1]. This is especially true if that diet includes food that contain significant amounts of vitamin B12, like:

  • Fish, including salmon and tuna
  • Lean meats and beef
  • Dairy products, including milk, cheese, and yogurt
  • Eggs

That said, even with a proper diet, many people over the age of 50 may need vitamin B12 supplements to make sure they’re hitting the recommended B12 intake. In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), up to 43% of older adults don’t get enough B12 and suffer from a B12 deficiency [1].

With that in mind, let’s go back to our initial question: how much vitamin B12 should a person over 65 take?

Recent reports suggest that, along with a B12-rich diet, consuming 500 micrograms of B12 in the form of a supplement may help individuals over 65 maintain healthy vitamin B12 levels [2].

Taking a vitamin B12 supplement may even help reverse a B12 deficiency and its symptoms, which can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale or yellow skin
  • Chronic headaches and migraines
  • Depression

What causes vitamin B12 deficiency in older adults?

Often, vitamin B12 deficiencies are caused by poor dietary intake.

However, as you age, the body also becomes less efficient at producing the stomach acid and enzymes needed to break down food and convert vitamins like B12 into forms the body can use. This means that diet alone may not be to blame for a B12 deficiency.

In fact, the prevalence of atrophic gastritis among older adults is a frequently contributing factor in B12 deficiencies [3]. Atrophic gastritis is the chronic inflammation of the stomach lining. Without treatment, atrophic gastritis can cause:

  • Anemia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Atrophic gastritis also inhibits the production of those necessary stomach acids and enzymes, potentially leading to a B12 deficiency.

The benefits of vitamin B12

Along with other B vitamins, B12 plays an integral role in many of the body’s most important functions. For example, B12 enables the body to convert glucose molecules from food into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Why is this important? ATP is an organic compound that powers blood cells and, in turn, energizes the rest of the body.

Additionally, vitamin B12 intake is important because it:

  • Promotes blood health – If not for vitamin B12 intake, the human body would be unable to produce new red blood cells [1]. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the various muscles and organs of the body, giving them the energy they need to perform their specific functions.
  • Promotes mental health – Maintaining the proper amount of B12 levels may help prevent certain mental health issues associated with B12 deficiencies, such as depressive symptoms, anxiety, and some mood disorders [4]. It can also combat the presentation of deficiency-related cognitive decline, like memory loss, confusion, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Promotes nerve health – Vitamin B12 is particularly useful to the central nervous system—the system that controls nearly every aspect of how the body operates. In fact, studies suggest links between B12 deficiencies and certain nervous system-related conditions, such as ataxia (which affects coordination and mobility) and paresthesia (which causes a burning, tingling sensation in the hands and feet) [1].

B12 supplementation with Everlywell

Everlywell now offers vitamin B12 supplements to make it easy to boost B12 intake. Each B12 tablet is vegan and non-GMO, and every bottle comes with a 30-day supply (and a monthly subscription option saves you 10%).

11 possible signs of vitamin B12 deficiency

Roles of vitamin B12 during pregnancy

Does vitamin B12 give you energy?

Benefits of vitamin B12 for your hair


References

1. Vitamin B12 - Health Professional Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. URL. Accessed May 17, 2022.

2. Park S, Johnson MA. What is an adequate dose of oral vitamin B12 in older people with poor vitamin B12 status? Nutr Rev. 2006 Aug;64(8):373-8.

3. Atrophic Gastritis. StatPearls [Internet]. URL. Accessed May 17, 2022.

4. Wolffenbuttel BHR, Wouters HJCM, Heiner-Fokkema MR, van der Klauw MM. The Many Faces of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Deficiency. Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 2019;3(2):200-214. Published 2019 May 27.

Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More