Vitamin B12’s main claim to fame is its status as an energy powerhouse—the central source of the vitality your body needs to successfully perform day in and day out.
Article at a Glance
- A water-soluble vitamin also known as cobalamin
- Required for red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis
- Since it’s water-soluble, you must constantly replenish your B12 levels
Energy Boost from B12
- Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to fatigue and weakness
- People over the age of 50 don’t absorb vitamin B12 as easily, thus making them more susceptible to body fatigue
- This means that those over 50 should consider supplementation
Vitamin B12 for Heart Health
- B12 deficiency could lead to elevated levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to cardiovascular disease
- B12 when combined with B6 and folic acid, has shown to work together to decrease homocysteine levels
Vitamin B12 for Hair, Skin, Nails
- In the production of cells, vitamin B12 could help strengthen hair, skin, and nails
- Various studies show that a B12 deficiency negatively affects hair, skin, and nails
Vitamin B12 for Your Brain
- Low levels of vitamin B12 have been linked to depression
- In combination with B6 and folic acid, vitamin B12 could potentially prevent age-related cognitive decline
- Research shows that supplementing B12 could help improve memory
Vitamin B12 for Bones and Vision
- Studies show that B12 deficiency could put certain people at risk for osteoporosis and bone fractures
- Various studies show that a vitamin B12 deficiency can contribute to blurry vision, while supplementation with vitamin B12 could help reverse the damage
Vitamin B12: Two Main Forms
- The two main forms of vitamin B12 are cyanocobalamin (lab synthesized) and methylcobalamin (natural)
- Cyanocobalamin contains traces of cyanide, which your body must dispose of before the B12 can be utilized
- Methylcobalamin boasts better bioavailability, meaning it can more quickly enter the bloodstream and be better utilized by your body
Any accolades that vitamin B12 receives in the realm of energy are well deserved, but this complicated essential nutrient doesn’t simply inject you with a blast of energetic jitters like a caffeine-loaded double espresso. Instead, vitamin B12 gets to the root of your problems overcoming fatigue, irritability, stamina, brain fog, mental cloudiness, and more.
But to say that vitamin B12 is only beneficial to your stamina would be selling this essential nutrient short. In reality, vitamin B12 and its energy-boosting action also boast properties that hook up with the health of your blood, DNA, brain, heart, vision, and bones.
A Little Background On Vitamin B12
Naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a nutritional supplement, vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that also goes by the name cobalamin. Vitamin B12 should be on your list of “essential nutrients,” as it’s required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. In fact, it’s so important, that deficiencies in the vitamin have been the subject of two separate Nobel Prize-winning studies.
Since it’s a water-soluble vitamin, you lose whatever vitamin B12 you’ve ingested whenever you go to the bathroom. Generally, your body doesn’t store vitamin B12, so you need to consistently take it into your system via your regular diet or supplementation.
The recommended intake of vitamin B12 varies depending on the person, but the typical general supplemental dose of vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg per day, with more required for women who are pregnant and those with a vitamin B12 deficiency.
So, what exactly makes vitamin B12 so essential? What physiological functions require vitamin B12? Let’s go through them one by one.
The Potential Energy Boost From Vitamin B12
As stated above, vitamin B12 is perhaps best known for its relation to energy and stamina—and with good reason. It’s been highly touted as the go-to vitamin for the energy we need for long term success, not just a quick boost during the late afternoon malaise.
A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to a type of which is one of the main biological contributors to fatigue and weakness. And if you are over the age of 50 and feeling the sting of fatigue a lot more than you used to, chances are you have at least some level of vitamin B12 deficiency. This might be because many older adults do not have a sufficient amount of hydrochloric acid needed to absorb the vitamin B12 that naturally occurs in meat, poultry, shellfish, dairy products, and eggs. The best way for 50-somethings to get vitamin B12 to guard against anemia is through foods fortified with the vitamin, like cereals and nutritional supplements.
Vitamin B12 Benefits Could Improve Heart Health
Vitamin B12’s relation to heart health has much to do with instances of deficiency in the levels of the vitamin in your system. High blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease—and when you’re deficient in vitamin B12, it’s likely that your homocysteine levels will become elevated.
But B12 is not alone in its support of heart health. As has been documented, vitamin B12 is one of those nutrients that works extremely well with other representatives of the B complex, particularly folic acid and vitamin B6.
Results from more than a few randomized trials indicate that combinations of vitamin B12, folic acid, and vitamin B6 work together to decrease elevated levels of homocysteine in certain subjects. Meanwhile, another study demonstrated that older men and women who took a multivitamin with B12 showed a decrease in homocysteine levels.
Vitamin B12 Benefits Could Support Hair, Skin, And Nails
As a chief player in your body’s production of cells, sufficient vitamin B12 is key to healthy hair, skin, and nails. And once again, it’s a deficiency in vitamin B12 that signals the nutrient’s importance in that area of health.
Specifically, reduced levels of vitamin B12 have been linked to various skin conditions, as well as other related physical manifestations like nail discoloration, changes in hair quality, and skin pigmentation. Specifically, studies show that certain skin conditions not responding to conventional therapy could be an indication of a vitamin B12 deficiency. In another study, skin discoloration returned to normal after a subject was treated with vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 Benefits And Brain Health
Once again, working with other vitamins—specifically B6 and folic acid—makes vitamin B12 a powerhouse, especially for brain health. In particular, low levels of B12 and folic acid are tied to depression, according to studies of the general population.
But beyond mood, vitamin B12, folic acid, and B6 have shown vital promise in protecting against cognitive decline. The trio of vitamins could potentially combine to prevent mental decline, particularly age-related brain conditions.
And even if you’re not necessarily deficient in vitamin B12 and instead have levels that are merely on the low side, this could still contribute to less-than stellar memory. A study showed that supplementing with vitamin B12 could potentially improve memory even without a diagnosed deficiency of the vitamin.
Vitamin B12 Might Also Contribute To Better Vision & Bone Health
Two areas of concern that you might not associate with vitamin B12 are your eyes and your bones, however, with its prowess in cell-building, it makes sense.
A study by Tufts University demonstrated that low levels of vitamin B12 are linked to a more pronounced risk of osteoporosis in men and women. Another study backs up those findings, showing that low concentrations of vitamin B12 could be one of the risk factors in osteoporosis and bone fractures.
As for your vision, a B12 deficiency could result in damage to the optic nerve leading to your eyes, which can cause blurred vision. And although a decrease in the quality of vision is something we all deal with as we age, this particular condition has shown to respond well to vitamin B12 supplementation.
Vitamin B12: The Cheap Stuff vs. The Good Stuff
We all remember being a kid in the cereal aisle at the supermarket, hoping mom would grab the name brand cereal—emblazoned with colorful characters and a game on the back of the box. This was the good stuff. But inevitably, some moms would trek to the dark side of the cereal aisle where the discount off-brands were displayed, and we would groan in defeat.
Those generic brands didn’t even come in boxes. They came in bags, with cheap knock-off characters and not a game to be found on the back of the packaging. The point is, even as a child, you knew when you were getting an inferior version of the good stuff.
Vitamin B12, while certainly better for you than the sugary cereals of your childhood, also has a “cheap” version of itself confusing the marketplace. Chemically synthesized cyanocobalamin is the form most commonly found in supplements and fortified foods. It’s considered to be the most stable form of vitamin B12, keeping better in extreme conditions. While that sounds like a positive, the reason it’s less likely to “go bad” is because it’s man-made in a lab.
Think about it: Most synthetic versions of natural products keep better for a longer period of time, but that doesn’t mean natural is inferior to synthetic, it means that the laboratory process loads additives into the product in order to give it a longer shelf life.
Besides its synthetic status, the main problem with cyanocobalamin is that your body has to spend valuable time and energy ridding it of the toxic waste of actual cyanide and converting it into a version of B12 that you can actually utilize. And depending on your overall health, proper conversion of cyanocobalamin into usable B12 could take much longer or not happen at all.
On the other hand, there is methylcobalamin, which is the naturally occurring version of vitamin B12 that’s found in animal-based foods. With methylcobalamin, for starters, there’s no cyanide that your body needs to remove, giving methylcobalamin a higher rate of bioavailability. This is demonstrated by a 2017 study, which showed that supplementing with the natural form of vitamin B12—methylcobalamin—is more effective than going the cheap route with lab-synthesized cyanocobalamin.
Vitamin B12 For Full-Bodied Health
The longer you live and the more research you do, the more you come to understand that the various processes taking place in your body are all connected—either directly or indirectly. So, it goes with vitamin B12. This essential member of the vitamin B complex just might be the key to connecting the dots within your body to better health. With so many powerful uses, a lack of vitamin B12 might be the link to why you don’t feel the way you want to feel.