Is Vitamin B-12 Needed in Older Women?

Beef is a good source of vitamin B-12.

Beef is a good source of vitamin B-12.

No matter what age or gender you are, your body requires vitamin B-12 for healthy functioning. Vitamin B-12 deficiency is more common in older adults. This water-soluble vitamin helps your body form red blood cells, aids in neurological performance and is important in DNA synthesis. If you believe you are deficient in vitamin B-12, consult your physician.


Vitamin B-12 has the most complex chemical structure of all the vitamins, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. The vitamin also contains cobalt, a metal ion. Because of that, compounds with vitamin B-12 activity are called cobalamins. Animal foods, such as beef, poultry, fish and dairy products, naturally contain vitamin B-12. Some manufacturers fortify plant foods, since they do not contain this essential vitamin.

Recommended Daily Value

The Food and Nutrition Board recommends that every person over the age of 14 consume 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B-12 per day. This recommended daily value does not decrease with age. However, for women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, the recommended daily value does increase. Because vitamin B-12 is a water-soluble vitamin and you excrete any excess in the urine, the chance of toxicity is low, so the Food and Nutrition Board has not established an upper limit.

Deficiency Symptoms

The most common complication from vitamin B-12 deficiency is megaloblastic anemia. This type of anemia causes larger than normal red blood cells. In general, people with anemia do not have enough red blood cells. Other symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency include fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness, constipation and weight loss. If you are deficient in vitamin B-12, you may also notice neurological changes including tingling in your hands and feet, numbness, unsteady gait, depression, confusion, dementia and poor memory.

Older Adults

Older adults are at greater risk for a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Ten to 15 percent of adults over the age of 60 are deficient in vitamin B-12, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. Atrophic gastritis, which reduces the stomach fluids, is common in older adults. Without this necessary fluid, your body cannot absorb vitamin B-12 properly. Because of the increased risk of malabsorption, older women should get their vitamin B-12 from supplements or fortified foods. These forms of the vitamin do not require stomach acids to break them down, and your body can use them immediately.

About the Author

Ireland Wolfe has been writing professionally since 2009, contributing to Toonari Post, Africana Online and Winzer Insurance. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Master of Arts in mental health counseling. She is also a licensed mental health counselor, registered nutritionist and yoga teacher.

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