What Are Considered High Vitamin B12 Levels?
Learn how much vitamin B12 you need to get each day, as well as the best ways to help prevent a B12 deficiency with food and supplements.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays a role in maintaining cognitive health, the production of new blood cells, and sending signals between your nerves. It’s found in a variety of foods but is primarily found in animal products like eggs, dairy, and meat.
If you’re unsure about how much vitamin B12 you need, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll walk you through the basics of B12, how to spot a nutrient deficiency, and how to get enough of this vital nutrient in your diet.
How Much B12 Do I Need?
The recommended daily amount of B12 for male and female adults is 2.4 mcg. This number increases to 2.6 for pregnant women and 2.8 for women who are breastfeeding.
Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin B12 are:
- Fortified Cereal
Additionally, nutritional yeast is one of the only vegan-friendly sources of B12 that is also widely available in grocery stores. It has a flaky texture and a taste that some people say is similar to parmesan cheese.
As you can tell, the majority of B12-rich foods are animal products, which is why it can be difficult for vegans and vegetarians to get enough B12 each day. As a result, vegans and vegetarians can help maintain levels by supplementing with B12 to avoid a deficiency.
What Is the Normal Range for Vitamin B12 Levels?
The generally accepted healthy range for vitamin B12 in the blood for the average adult is 160 to 950 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL).
However, symptoms of a B12 deficiency may start showing in the 200 to 550 range. Because of this, there’s a grey area for physicians to diagnose a deficiency since a patient may be showing symptoms while still falling within the accepted normal range.
What Is a High Vitamin B12 Level?
Since vitamin B12 is water-soluble, anything your body does not use just should be excreted through urine, so having excessive B12 levels is not overly common.
That said, since the top of normal range is about 950 pg/mL, anything above this is considered high.
What Happens If You Don’t Get Enough B12?
Like other essential vitamins and minerals, your body needs enough B12 to function at 100 percent. If you frequently come up short on your daily B12 needs, you may run the risk of developing a nutrient deficiency. In the paragraphs below, we’ll cover the signs and symptoms of B12 deficiency, as well as suggested steps if you think your B12 levels may be too low.
What Are the Mild Symptoms of B12 Deficiency?
The most common symptoms of vitamin B12 may be uncomfortable, but they're typically quite mild and addressable. These symptoms may appear during the early stages of a deficiency.
One common symptom of low B12 levels is a lack of mental and physical energy. The cells in your body need B12 to function, and your body also needs B12 to produce new cells.
In the long term, B12 deficiency can turn into pernicious anemia, a condition that limits the production of new red blood cells. Fatigue is one of the primary symptoms of pernicious anemia.
In addition to feeling mentally tired, physical exhaustion is also a sign that you may be dealing with a B12 deficiency, which is why feeling weak is another symptom of pernicious anemia,
The symptoms of B12 deficiency can become more problematic over time, which means that mental and physical tiredness may eventually give way to issues like frequent bouts of dizziness and chronic headaches.
Changes in Appetite and Weight
A B12 deficiency can also make it difficult to eat the way you normally would. This is partially because low B12 levels may make you feel nauseous, which can decrease your appetite. In addition, if your B12 deficiency leads to the development of pernicious anemia, you could experience a more noticeable decrease in appetite apart from the feelings of nausea.
When low B12 levels impact the way you eat, you may also see changes in your weight. B12 deficiency is associated with weight loss due to changes in appetite, as well as the long-term impact of anemia on your weight.
When to Get a Vitamin B12 Deficiency Test
Vitamin B12 deficiencies aren’t particularly common among healthy adults who eat balanced diets. However, there are some populations who are at greater risk of becoming deficient in this important nutrient.
If you’re a member of any of the following populations, your risk of a B12 deficiency may be higher.
- Vegans may need to monitor their B12 intake and compensate for the lack of animal products in their diets by using B12 supplements. B12 is typically quite minimal in plant foods, which means most strict vegans may need to take a supplement to get enough of the nutrient each day.
- Some vegetarians may also want to get tested for a B12 deficiency due to the limited amount of B12-rich foods in a vegetarian diet. While some vegetarian-friendly foods, such as eggs and dairy products, do contain B12, vegetarians may still have a higher risk of becoming deficient than meat-eaters.
- Some diabetics may be at a greater risk of developing a B12 deficiency if they are taking the commonly prescribed diabetes medication metformin, which can reduce the body’s ability to absorb B12. In fact, one study showed that around 20 percent people with type-two diabetes are deficient in B12.
How B12 Deficiency Testing Works
If you suspect that you have a B12 deficiency or are in a high-risk group, you may consider scheduling a visit with your doctor and letting them know your concerns. They may have you get your blood drawn so they can check your blood B12 levels.
Blood testing is the tried-and-true method for diagnosing nutrient deficiencies. Labwork can give insight into nutrient levels and help your doctor determine whether you’re lacking in any key vitamins or minerals and if that may be the cause of your symptoms.
Preventing or Reversing a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
If your doctor determines that you’re either deficient in B12 or at risk of developing a deficiency, they may discuss your options for treatment with you. The two primary means for preventing or reversing a deficiency are foods and supplements.
B12 Supplements: The First Choice for Vegans
Vegans, strict vegetarians, and other individuals who may not get much B12 from their diets may be advised to start supplementing with the nutrient if they’re diagnosed with a deficiency. If you’re vegan or vegetarian and deficient in B12, a supplement allows you to stick with your current diet while getting your B12 levels back on track.
People with a plant-based lifestyle aren’t the only people who might want to try B12 supplements to reverse a deficiency. The main reason why doctors often recommend a supplement to B12-deficient patients is the high concentration of the vitamin in each dose. A high-quality B12 supplement gives you more nutrients than you’d get from several servings of B12-rich foods, so even if you do eat meat, you may still be advised to take a supplement if you are experiencing symptoms of a B12 deficiency.
Are B12 Supplements or Food Better?
Overall, supplements are an excellent treatment method for a nutrient deficiency, including B12. However, correcting your nutrient levels with whole, unprocessed foods is a strong supplementary option as well — it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Food may not offer as concentrated an amount of B12 per serving as supplements do, but changing your diet is still a reliable way to get more vitamin B12.
If you’re an omnivore and want to add more B12 to your diet with food, red meat and fish are some of the best dietary sources of the vitamin. However, organ meats like liver boast the highest B12 counts.
What About B12 Injections?
Another option to supplement with B12 is with a B12 injection or infusion.
As opposed to supplements and food, vitamins that are delivered intravenously during IV therapy or via nutraceutical injections are more bioavailable, meaning they are better absorbed and used by your body.
How Does IV Therapy Work?
When you schedule personalized IV therapy with ivee, all you have to do is select which treatment you’d like, and one of our Registered Nurses will come to your home, office, hotel, or other location of choice in as little as two hours. They’ll get you set up on the IV by inserting an IV catheter into your arm, which is attached to your treatment bag hung above your head.
An infusion session can last anywhere from 45 minutes to a few hours depending on which treatment you choose, though you’re likely to feel the rejuvenating effects before the treatment ends.
As you receive nutrients and hydration, all you have to do is sit back and relax – you can even enjoy a TV show or listen to music.
To learn more about B12 IV therapy, click here.
Since B12 is water-soluble, most of the “extra” B12 you consume will just pass through your body and exit through urine. That said, the upper end of B12’s normal range is 950 pg/ml, so anything above that could be considered “high.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, B12 deficiency isn’t a particularly common problem either, though certain groups of people may be at higher risk of it, including vegans and vegetarians.
For most people, eating B12-rich foods and supplementing as directed by a Healthcare Provider can help them stay within normal range, while some people may regularly include B12 as part of their wellness IV therapy routine to help support energy levels.
Consult with a provider before adding new supplements or implementing changes into your diet if you have concerns about your own B12 levels — they can provide additional guidance specific to your health history.
Vitamin B12 - Health Professional Fact Sheet | ODS
Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation | NCBI
The power of a plant-based diet for heart health | Mayo Clinic
Vitamin B12 deficiency among patients with diabetes mellitus: is routine screening and supplementation justified | NCBI