Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential water-soluble vitamin that everyone needs for optimal functioning. It is one of the eight necessary B vitamins.
This vitamin is one of the most common deficiencies among all eight B vitamins because it is not abundant in all foods. Vitamin B12 is present in animal-based foods or bacteria. That is one reason why vegans and vegetarians may have a hard time getting all the B12 they need in their daily diet.
Vegan or not, vitamin B12 is a helpful supplement for many. The reference range for vitamin B12 is long, so many people may benefit from having numbers in the upper half of the reference range, as opposed to just enough. It is, for the most part, better to have optimal levels than merely sufficient levels.
This essential B vitamin is necessary for many functions throughout the body, ranging from the top of the head to all the nerves in the body, blood cells, and more. Malabsorption and digestive distress can cause B12 deficiency (1).
The methylation cycle requires B12, B9 (folate), and even B6 to convert the vitamins through the digestive tract and into the cell membranes (2). DNA Methylation is a natural process that requires nutrients such as these and choline to get the job done right. B12 plays a critical role in folate metabolism, as well.
Summary: Vitamin B12, known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin. It is one of the 8 essential B vitamins. It is one of the most common vitamins people are deficient in, especially vegans and vegetarians because it is mostly found in animal-based foods and bacteria. It is important for nerve function, blood cells, folate metabolism for energy, and much more.
Table of Contents
- Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
- Foods that Contain Vitamin B12
- Are There Health Risks for Taking too Much Vitamin B12?
Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Check out the information below to see the many health benefits of vitamin B12. Plus, learn the best dietary sources if there are any potential risk factors.
1. It Can Increase Energy
Are you feeling low in energy lately? Is coffee or caffeine the only thing that gets you through the day? It may be time to add more nutrient-dense foods into your diet and possibly even a quality B12 supplement.
The body uses energy from food to convert it into energy to keep you moving all day long. If you are eating a diet low in nutrients, you are more likely to be deficient in vitamin B12.
Most people can benefit from an extra boost of B12, but boosting levels through food intake alone can also help keep you energized.
Summary: Vitamin B12 helps the body convert food into energy. Instead of reaching for your third cup of coffee or caffeine booster to help you feel energized, start eating vitamin B12-rich food for a natural energy boost.
2. It Can Prevent Cardiovascular Disease
Cardiovascular disease affects millions of people across the globe, from a heart attack, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, and more. Heart disease is a common disease in the United States.
Homocysteine levels need to remain at optimal levels to maintain a healthy heart. Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in regulating homocysteine in the body (3).
Those who have high lipoprotein (a) levels, obesity, diabetes, and more are risk factors for heart disease.
Along with folate and vitamin B6, vitamin B12 is necessary to keep homocysteine levels low, preventing any cardiovascular disease from occurring.
Many factors go into heart disease as well, including exercise, diet overall, and lifestyle habits.
Summary: Cardiovascular disease is a common medical issue, and vitamin B12 plays a vital role in heart health along with a healthy diet, exercise, and good lifestyle habits. Vitamin B12 helps to keep homocysteine levels low, which helps prevent against heart disease.
3. It Can Improve Sleep
Sleep is arguably one of the most critical factors for a healthy lifestyle. It can even trump a healthy diet sometimes. If you are not sleeping well and long enough, your body cannot take the necessary steps to repair and heal, no matter what you are eating.
Sleep deprivation can lead to many downstream issues overtime for that reason. While studies show that there is no direct link to vitamins and sleep quality, there is some research that points to the effects of B12 on sleep quality (4).
Optimal levels of B12 can affect the circadian rhythm as well as the length of the sleep and wake cycle. As much as B12 can give you energy, it can also be a necessary component to improve sleep.
Summary: Vitamin B12 is helpful for promoting good sleep. It plays a role in the circadian rhythm, and the length of sleep/wake cycles. Vitamin B12 helps give you energy during the day and improves sleep at night.
4. It May Improve Cognitive Function
Do you feel like you are spacing out more than usual or having difficulty concentrating? Vitamin B12 can even help to improve cognitive health, aiding in concentration, memory retention, and more.
The combination of B12 and folate can even slow brain atrophy in those with mild cognitive impairment (5). Low B12 levels can go hand in hand for those who suffer from neurocognitive issues as well.
A healthy brain is a complex topic. To improve cognitive health and maintain it for the long haul, you must eat a balanced diet, exercise often, and continue learning new things.
Give your brain a bit of a boost with these activities and adding some brain-boosting foods high in vitamin B12 today.
Summary: Vitamin B12 is helpful for improving cognitive function, concentration, and memory retention. Consuming adequate B12 and folate can delay mild cognitive impairments. It’s important to consume a healthy balanced diet with routine exercise for optimal brain health.
5. It Can Strengthen Hair and Nails
Supplementing with vitamin B12 can even strengthen your hair and nails. Biotin, another essential B vitamin, is not the only power source for hair and nail strength.
Even though B12 plays a significant role in blood cell formation, nerve health, and more, the benefits do not end inside the body. You can potentially see them on the outside as well.
If you suffer from brittle nails, hair loss, or even just hair growth issues, it may be helpful to get your B12 levels tested.
Vitamins and minerals are just as crucial for the inside of the body as they are on the outside. (6) Many other vitamins and minerals can help, too. Supplementation and diet change is an affordable and often successful way to keep your hair and nails healthy.
Summary: Vitamin B12 can help strengthen nails and hair. If you suffer from brittle nails or hair, hair loss, or hair and nail growth issues, it is recommended to test vitamin B12 levels. Supplementation and a change in the diet may be necessary if levels are low.
6. It Can Improve Immune Function
A healthy immune system depends on many factors, but vitamin, minerals, and macronutrients should be the top approach to enhancing immunity. Along with vitamin B12, other essential B vitamins, vitamins C, D, A, magnesium, iron, zinc, are necessary to stay well. (7)
If you are suffering from frequent illness and infection, and you do not get enough vitamin B12 in your diet, it can be an excellent addition to your routine.
Remember that eating a poor diet, low in nutrition and high in refined sugar and carbohydrates can even deplete vital nutrients from the body. Also, many medications can even drain the nutrients necessary to maintain a healthy environment. deplete
Try to eat a healthy, balanced diet full of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables to stay healthy and disease-free for the long haul.
Summary: The immune system relies on vitamin B12, along with the other B vitamins, vitamins A, C, D, magnesium, iron, and zinc. Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamin B12, antioxidants, and other immune-boosting nutrients if you suffer from illness or infection often.
7. It Can Prevent Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Just like heart health, high homocysteine levels may be an impactful contributor to getting age-related macular degeneration.
Homocysteine levels cannot reach a certain level without harmful effects happening in the body. For some, those can show up as heart issues and vision troubles. Genetic factors can determine those odds, but remember that genetics is not the end all be all to your health.
There is promising research showing epigenetics can allow you to change your gene expressions based on diet and lifestyle habits alone (8).
To keep your eyes healthy and help prevent age-related macular degeneration, be sure to eat a diet consistently high in B12-rich foods, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
Check out the food list below to see if you are getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet to boost energy, prevent vision trouble, improve your sleep habits, and more.
Summary: High homocysteine levels may have an impact on age-related macular degeneration. Vitamin B12 helps to manage homocysteine levels in the body, and thus may help prevent vision troubles. Be sure to eat a diet rich in many nutrients including vitamins B12, C, E, zinc, lutein, and zeaxanthin for optimal eye health.
Foods that Contain Vitamin B12
Some foods contain high levels of vitamin B12, while others are on the lower end. If you eat a diet rich in animal-based foods with no gastrointestinal issues, you may be getting enough vitamin B12.
For those who do not eat animal-based foods, fortified foods, and nutritional yeast are great staples. Luckily, you can add nutritional yeast to many dishes.
No matter what your diet consists of, B12 deficiency can affect nearly 15% of Americans. Keep in mind that the percentage only accounts for a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. Even if your levels come up normal or on the low end, some may still benefit from a supplement here and there.
Summary: Vitamin B12 is prevalent in animal-based foods. For vegans and vegetarians, fortified foods and nutritional yeast are great substitutes for getting adequate vitamin B12 intake.
You can get your vitamin B12 from foods like the ones listed below:
- Fish-salmon, trout, tuna, haddock, clams
- Beef and beef liver
- Nutritional yeast (a great option for vegans)
- Fortified cereal and some other foods
Where can you add a new food rich in vitamin B12 to your diet? Whenever you buy meat and seafood, make sure to purchase grass-fed and wild varieties for healthier less-calorie alternatives.
Anyone can try to add some nutritional yeast to their diet as a tasty alternative to cheese, as it has a subtle cheesy flavor. See where you can start adding more of these foods alongside your favorite vegetables and fruits for more energy, a healthier immune system, and much more.
Summary: Chicken, fish, beef and beef liver, milk, yogurt, cheese, nutritional yeast, ham, eggs, and fortified cereals are great options for getting adequate B12 intake. Nutritional yeast is perfect for vegans and vegetarians, it adds a “cheesy” flavor to foods. Sprinkle on vegetables, popcorn, or dips.
Are There Health Risks for Taking too Much Vitamin B12?
The short answer is no. There is no current evidence of side effects from taking too much vitamin B12.
Although there is no evidence to show adverse effects, it may be best to gradually increase your numbers over time, unless you are extremely deficient. In that case, your doctor may recommend a high dose initially then, a lower one on most days.
Balance is the key to optimal health when it comes to vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, and micronutrients.
Vitamin B12 toxicity can happen when you take regular high doses of the supplement, but again, it is exceedingly rare. That is because many are low in it already. If you think you may be taking too much vitamin B12, and you experience any of the below symptoms, be sure to cut back on your dosage or eliminate it.
Keep in mind vitamin B12 is typically safe to take, even at high doses, as it is a water-soluble vitamin. That means it is easy to pass through the urinary tract.
Certain medications can also impair you from absorbing enough vitamin B12. These include proton pump inhibitors, metformin, certain antibiotics, and more.
Not sure if you are getting enough vitamin B12? Be sure to speak with your doctor or healthcare professional if you experience any of the above symptoms or if you think it would make sense to get your levels tested. That way, you can see exactly how much you need to thrive. Your doctor can then assist you with the correct dosage.
Summary: It is rare to get vitamin B12 toxicity. Since it is a water-soluble vitamin, it can pass easily through the body. Toxicity can happen when you take regular high doses of supplements, but this is rare. Some medications can actually impair vitamin B12 absorption, including proton pump inhibitors, metformin, and some antibiotics. Speak with your doctor if you think you need to test your vitamin B12 levels.
Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin that helps protect red blood cells, neurons, skin cells, and more. It is necessary to get vitamin B12 through foods, supplements, or both.
Taking or eating enough vitamin B12 can boost many areas of your health, and monitoring your levels each year can be extremely helpful for many.
If you do not suffer from any of the typical vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, your doctor may not check your levels in a routine test. Be sure to ask about a simple test if you would like to know your levels.
Regular doses of vitamin B12, as well as many other nutrients, as necessary to prevent disease, stay energetic and continue to flourish.