Most veteran vegans know the importance of vitamin B12 supplements. Since the essential nutrient is only naturally found in animal products—and all those are off limits—we must find other ways to acquire vitamin B12.
There are foods that have been fortified with B12, but the pickings are slim. Plus, their effectiveness (and vegan state) is questionable.
That leaves supplementation. But when is the best time to start supplementation for a child?
Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin B12
The daily recommendations for vitamin B12 are as follows:
- Children 1 to 3 years old: 0.9mcg
- Children 4 to 8 years old: 1.2mcg
- Children 9 to 13 years old: 1.8mcg
- Children over the age of 14: 2.4mcg
About one tablespoon of nutritional yeast could meet your child’s daily needs. However, not all brands of nutritional yeast have been fortified with B12 and not all are vegan friendly. Other options of vegan fortified foods include plant milks (soy, almond, coconut) and breakfast cereals.
However, a diet high in sugar can interfere with the absorption process of vitamin B12. So even if your child is consuming enough of the nutrient, the body might not be getting the full amount.
If you pursue supplementation, you need to work closely with your doctor. B12 is a water soluble vitamin, so overdosing is nearly impossible. However, too much of the nutrient can throw other vitamin levels out of whack.
Plus, vitamin B12 supplements can sometimes interfere with the effectiveness of certain medications.
How do I Know if my Child has a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vegan families need to keep a close eye on their children. Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are often confused with other illnesses or diseases.
If you take your child to the doctor as a result of these symptoms, the doctor will likely look for ways to treat a disease rather than a deficiency. Therefore, it is your responsibility to keep a close eye on things.
Common symptoms of a childhood deficiency include:
- Abdominal pains
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Loss of appetite
These conditions are commonly associated with things like the flu—illnesses that will pass with time. However, these symptoms are often chronic if the underlying cause—a vitamin B12 deficiency—isn’t addressed.
In addition to the physiological symptoms, there are also behavioral issues that arise with a vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Difficulty remembering things
- Lack of concentration
- Complications with hand-eye coordination
If left untreated, your child runs a greater risk of heart disease, breast cancer, macular degeneration, and dementia. Therefore, it is important to curb a vitamin B12 deficiency early on.
However, your doctor won’t naturally gravitate toward a deficiency diagnosis—you’ll have to help him along. You may even have to recommend the testing yourself.
Testing for a vitamin B12 deficiency usually consists of a blood and urine test.
If the test comes back positive for a deficiency, you’ll want to start supplementation right away. Even if the nutrient levels are in the normal range, supplementation might still be encouraged.
The body is not capable of storing vitamin B12, so daily replenishment is needed. If your youngster isn’t a fan of foods like nutritional yeast, you may want to supplement the limited diet.
You can talk with your doctor about supplement options. For adults, the most popular form is vitamin B12 injections. Injections ensure the full dose of the nutrient reaches the bloodstream. A large portion of the B12 in oral pills is lost in the digestion and absorption process.
However, depending on the age, injections might not be the best option for your youngster. But as your children age, you’ll want to eventually switch to injections. Not only are injections more efficient, they also require less frequent administration (once a week rather than once a day).
A child burns through its vitamin storehouse quicker than an adult because a youngster’s body isn’t capable of storing as much. Therefore, it is important to monitor your child’s vitamin levels as closely—or more attentively—than you do your own.
Do you give your child vitamin supplements? Which vegan brands are your favorite?