Yes, supplementing vitamin B12 for children has its benefits, with little to no risk of over intake.
According to American Family Physician, in US and UK around 6% of people under 60 years old have a B12 deficiency. For children, this vitamin is critical for proper neurological and cognitive development, healthy weight gain and DNA synthesis. A vitamin B12 deficiency is thought to be one of the reasons why some babies experience a “failure to thrive” early on.
I recently did some research on vitamin B12 on a hunch that both of my kids are likely deficient. Mainly my son, Jake Jr, who has the tendency to suddenly become very irritable and towards the end of every day he hasn’t much of an appetite. He isn’t a picky eater, but around dinner time he just seems uninterested in eating. However, skipping dinner always ends up in waking in the middle of the night for a sandwich. At almost four years old I began to wonder–bad habit or simply lack of appetite? That’s when I looked at other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Symptoms of Low B12 in Children and Adults
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are the same in children and adults and can range from very mild to very severe. Below you’ll find all the possible symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency, as described by Stichting Tekort.
- Lack of appetite
- Delay in growth
- Developmental delay or even regression
- Tingling or burning sensation (in extremities)
- Hypotonia (low muscle tone)
- Reduced tactile sensation (touch sensation)
- Ataxia (lack of muscle control)
- Symptoms of paralysis
- Involuntary movements
- Concentration problems
- Memory disorders
- Personality changes
- Hypersegmented neutrophils (type of white blood cells)
- Leukopenia (low white blood cell count)
- Thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count)
- Glossitis (inflammation/irritation of the tongue)
- Hyperpigmentation of the skin
- Diarrhea and/or intestinal symptoms
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
My whole family shares at least four of these symptoms so, even without doing blood chemistries, I feel it’s safe to say we are at least mildly deficient. I wouldn’t say that either of my children have neurological delays or any severe symptoms that would indicate a bigger problem than simply not getting enough B12.
From this point, I was interested to learn more about supplementing vitamin B12 for both of my children.
Is Supplementing B12 Safe and Effective for Children?
Like any parent, my first concern with giving any sort of supplement is whether or not doing so is acceptable and safe for children. I always turn to published medical studies any time I have these concerns and look at several different study sources before coming to my own conclusion. Oral vitamin B12 supplementing is safe and quite effective for children ages 4 months to adulthood! Of course, I always clarify that I’m not a medical expert and you should consult your primary care provider before making these types of decisions for yourself and your family.
The reason oral supplementation of vitamin B12 is considered safe for anyone is because it is a water-soluble vitamin. Water-soluble vitamins will only be absorbed into the cells of the body if needed. The remaining, unneeded amounts, are excreted in the urine. Therefore, there is no risk of toxicity or “overdosing” on this supplement. Studies cited here further prove that there are no adverse reactions reported as a result of excessive, or too much, oral vitamin B12 intake. This includes when given to children.
But how well does supplementing vitamin B12 work? In this PubMed study of 47 children ages 1 month-17 years old, babies given 1000 micrograms of oral B12 had a positive response and showed increased serum levels of the vitamin after 2 weeks of supplementation! The study did find that older children require the dose to be adjusted according to weight, otherwise they had weaker absorption/response.
How much Vitamin B12 do Babies and Children Need?
My next question was how much B12 should my children be getting? My kids are now 7 and 5 years old. The recommended dietary allowance is surprisingly a very small amount! See the chart below. (*Credit to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)
So then why would anyone be deficient if the “required” amount needed is so small? Well, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is where I found that answer as well. It explains…
“The main causes of vitamin B12 deficiency include vitamin B12 malabsorption from food, pernicious anemia, postsurgical malabsorption, and dietary deficiency. However, in many cases, the cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is unknown.”
Read more about causes of B12 deficiency, especially in adults here.
When researching the causes of B12 deficiency, I found that having colonies or an overgrowth of “bad bacteria” in the gut may be the reason for malabsorption of B12 from food. Furthermore, vegans, vegetarians and breastfeeding women with a mostly vegetarian diet are also prone to B12 deficiencies. Feel free to go do your own research on all of those topics!
So, given that oral supplementation of vitamin B12 for children is proven safe and also effective, I was comfortable moving forward in supplementing it not only for my children, but for our entire family!
Which Type of Vitamin B12 is the Best?
There are two forms of vitamin B12 found in the human body: Methylcobalamin and 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin and the synthetic B12 found in a lot of common B12 supplements is called cyanocobalamin. Multiple sources, like this one, show that it doesn’t matter which type you choose–all forms of B12 are mostly absorbed and used the same by our bodies, thank goodness! I hate having to pass up cheaper brands because they are synthetic-made. However, with B12 I found that the oral supplements, like this spray, are pretty cheap regardless of which form they contain. Plus, that one can be taken by the whole family and it’s organic.
You’ll find that oral B12 supplements have really high doses, typically around 1000 micrograms or more! But apparently, due to “intrinsic factors” of the human body, only about 10 out of 500 micrograms will actually make it into the blood stream to be distributed where needed. Again, the remaining amounts are excreted out of the body through the urine.
How to Supplement Vitamin B12 for Children
To increase vitamin B12 for my kids, I’ve done a few things. First, I’ve found a great supplement brand that I trust. We all take the PaleoValley Organ Complex for its high vitamin B12 component. This supplement comes in capsules, which I sprinkle into my kids’ orange juice, applesauce or smoothie a few times a week. They’ve never seemed to notice and I like that they’re also getting Vitamin A, folate and other minerals and essential vitamins found in meats.
Using my code FamilyandBaby10 you can get 10% off a bottle of their Organ Complex now! The code never expires.
Another source of B12 that’s easily taken by our whole family are dissolvable berry flavored lozenges from Jarrow Formulas, under $15! I rotate supplement delivery. One day I give them the organ Complex capsules and the next we take dissolvable tablets.
Secondly, I am making sure my kids eat quality meats every day. Jake Jr isn’t always a fan of scrambled eggs in the morning, but he loves a boiled egg for snack time.
Other ways of getting B12 in your kids’ diet is to increase intake of any of these foods…
(*chart credit: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)
And the third thing I’m doing to help my kids increase their vitamin B12 levels is trying to tame the unhealthy bacteria in their gut by giving them a daily probiotic. A good probiotic will have many different strains and I’m always switching up the brand and strains as suggested by our nutrition coach.
A couple of our go-tos for probiotics are:
We used to take another brand of probiotics, but in 2023 I am updating this post to recommend Dr. Berg’s liquid form probiotic. Our whole family takes this probiotic. Dr. Berg recommends one way of taking his probiotic: take daily for 4 months, pause for 1-2 months and then repeat. His product is a powerful probiotic! It first helped my kids overcome a stomach bug that was causing diarrhea and we now take this one regularly.
If you don’t like the medicinal tastes of liquids or your kids won’t swallow it, our second favorite probiotic that actually works is Klaire Labs, chewables. My kids will always take a chewable anything!
All of these things combined should be making a difference in both the amount of vitamin B12 my kids are taking in and the absorption capabilities in their gut. See the bottom of this post for updates on how these supplements and methods are working.
Of course, since I’m not an expert, I’m sure there are other things I could be doing to improve B12 absorption, so I encourage parents to investigate these other things if they feel the need to do so. After-all, it us parents who are responsible for our kids health so I encourage all parents to do your research, ask questions and learn from others! Hope you found this helpful. I wish you luck along your journey to healthy living!
NEXT READ THIS: The Best Solution for Hot Slides and Swings >>>
More about PaleoValley
If you haven’t heard of PaleoValley, they source quality vitamins and supplements, have NONGMO products, only use grassfed, humanely raised meats and use no fillers or chemicals whatsoever! We have been using their products for nearly 6 months and are very happy and healthy as a result!
Go to their website here to learn more about their brand and mission for delivering high quality supplements.