Does Vitamin B-12 Raise Iron Levels in Blood?
The relationship among vitamin B-12, folate and iron is a good example of the complex way in which some essential nutrients help keep your body healthy. Vitamin B-12 is indirectly responsible for raising your blood iron level to keep it in a healthy range. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about your need for iron and vitamin B-12.
Your Need for Iron
Iron is an essential mineral that’s a natural part of many foods you eat. The body of an average adult contains between 3 and 4 grams of iron, with about two-thirds of it in a compound called heme, combined with protein as hemoglobin in your red blood cells. Hemoglobin binds oxygen, carrying it through your circulation to all of your cells, which use it to fuel many basic biochemical processes that sustain life. Because of hemoglobin’s ability to bind oxygen, your blood iron level is crucial for supporting the normal function of every cell in your body.
Vitamin B-12 and Iron
Vitamin B-12 activates an enzyme called methionine synthase that has many essential functions, including helping your body use folate, which is needed for production of new DNA during cell division. Normally, about 1 percent of the red blood cells in your circulation are replaced by new cells each day, so that their number always remains adequate to provide oxygen to all your cells, tissues and organs. If you don’t consume enough vitamin B-12, usable folate can become low, slowing production of new red blood cells in your bone marrow. Eventually, this problem can lead to low levels of iron in your blood as old red cells wear out and die but aren’t effectively replaced.
Healthy Levels of B-12 and Iron
In adults, blood levels of iron should be between 60 and 170 micrograms per deciliter, according to MedlinePlus. If you don’t consume enough iron-rich foods, you might develop iron-deficiency anemia and low blood iron levels. But if your iron intake is adequate and you don’t get enough vitamin B-12, you could develop a different type of anemia, called pernicious anemia, in which low B-12 levels indirectly cause low levels of iron and too few red cells in your blood. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B-12 is 2.4 micrograms daily, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements, which says that eating a healthy diet containing animal-based foods helps most people obtain enough of the vitamin.
Sources of Iron and B-12
Most meats, poultry and fish are good sources of vitamin B-12. For example, a 3-ounce serving of lean beef contains about 7 micrograms, while a similar serving of mackerel provides 16 micrograms. The richest source is clams, with 84 micrograms in 3 ounces. Dairy products also contain some vitamin B-12 — 8 ounces of skim milk provides about 1 microgram, with slightly less in cheese and eggs. Keeping your intake of iron in the recommended range of 8 milligrams for men and older women, and 18 milligrams for women who have menstrual periods, can also help your blood iron level in the right range. Good iron sources include most vegetables and fruits, along with nuts, meat and foods such as grain products that are fortified with iron.