7 reasons to get more vitamin B12 in diet

LOS ANGELES A host of different studies suggest many Americans are on the low end of normal B12 levels.

"Vitamin B12 is something that is found only in animal products, unless foods are fortified with it, and so if for instance we've been on vegetarian diets for some time or vegan diets, if we've excluded a lot of animal products, we could be running low," said dietician Susan Bowerman.

Bowerman says you might not know your deficient, but it's important to get enough because B12 works together with other nutrients for many functions.

"One of the primary things that vitamin B12 does is it really supports nervous system function, and so it kind of has far reaching effects," Bowerman said.

B12 supports protecting brain clarity and memory as we age, and also helps to deter depression in women.

Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D work with B12 to boost bone mineral density as well.

Some studies show B12 supplementation can help to fight cancer, lower risk of age related macular degeneration, along with reducing hearing loss and anemia.

Even though we need B12, as we age, the ability to utilize it decreases.

"There is a substance in your stomach that's required for you to absorb it adequately," Bowerman said.

Known as the intrinsic factor, age, along with those regularly taking antacids, and those who've had gastric bypass surgery won't be getting what they need.

The daily suggestion is six micrograms or more.

This vitamin is water soluble, so there is no upper limit, but no need to overdose as you'll find it in common foods like these dairy, beef, yogurt, cottage cheese, salmon and eggs.

The synthetic kind of B12 found in supplements and fortified foods do not require stomach acid for absorption, so as we age, they are the best bet for your diet.

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