Have you thought about adding more B12 to your diet and supplement regimen? Curious about all the potential benefits of this nutrient and the best places to find it? We’ve broken vitamin B12 down in detail to help you choose what’s right for you and start adding more B12 to your diet right now.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient, meaning your body can't produce it on its own. Rather, you have to either eat B12-rich foods or supplement with B12 tablets, drops or even a B12 injection to have adequate amounts circulating in your body.
Also called cobalamin, vitamin B12 contributes to a number of important physiological functions in your body, but it's probably most famous for its ability to give you a mood boost. Keep reading to find out the health benefits of vitamin B12 and the foods and supplements you can take to ensure that you're getting enough for optimal health.
What Is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a coenzyme that's part of the B complex of vitamins. You can take it separately as B12 tablets, in B complex or in a multivitamin.
This complex includes:
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine)
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Vitamin B3 (niacin)
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid)
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
- Vitamin B7 (biotin)
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid)
- Vitamin B12 (the cobalamins)
These nutrients are all grouped together under the B vitamin complex because they share overlapping properties and physiological functions. They're all critically important to your health, working in concert. Despite their similarities, they can't replace each other and they work synergistically in your body when combined .
All B vitamins are water-soluble, meaning that your body uses what it needs and then excretes the remainder through your urine. This means that you don't store it up, and you need to consume it either through your diet or supplements very regularly.
A highly bioavailable natural source for B12 is animal products, so strict vegetarians — and especially vegans — run the risk of not getting enough vitamin B12 without supplementation.
We mentioned that vitamin B12 is also called cobalamin. There are two types of cobalamins: methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin.
The main difference between the two is that methylcobalamin is naturally occurring in animal foods (fish, dairy products, eggs, meat, organ meat), while cyanocobalamin is synthesised in a lab and often used in B12 tablets .
Both are available in supplement form. The jury is still out on whether your body absorbs one better than the other, as studies exist that contradict each other on the matter . Vegetarian B12 tablets are always cyanocobalamin.
At Hunter & Gather, our gluten-free organ supplements provide methylcobalamin. The ingredients inside the capsules are freeze-dried organs from grass-fed lamb, with your choice of heart, liver, kidney or a combination of liver and heart. All of these organ meats are potent sources of vitamin B12 and other synergistic nutrients.
Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, in concert with other B complex vitamins, helps support a number of systems in the body.
And due to its intricate relationship with the rest of the B vitamins, it's sometimes difficult for scientists to fully understand the independent roles of each of them. Research shows that B12, often in combination with one or more of the B vitamins, benefits your body in the following ways.
Helps With Red Blood Cell Formation
Anaemia (anemia) affects 1.62 billion people, making it the most common blood disorder on the planet . It can be caused by various vitamin and mineral deficiencies, commonly B12 and iron.
B12 contributes to the healthy formation of red blood cells, while iron contributes to healthy hemoglobin production. Red blood cells help oxygenate the blood when we breathe in and clean up the carbon dioxide when we breathe out. Red blood cells are also critical to the normal function of the immune system . Symptoms of anaemia include low energy levels and general weakness.
Interestingly, the fatigue associated with B12 deficiency might be the reason B12 tablets have a reputation as an energy booster. Research supports the idea that fixing a deficiency could improve energy levels, but that's kind of where it ends. Since B12 deficiency is more likely to occur in the elderly, vegetarians/vegans and developing countries, it's possible that these groups could experience a reduction of tiredness from supplementation. However, adding more to already adequate B12 levels likely won’t provide an energy boost .
Supports Mood and Brain Health
It's important to maintain healthy B12 levels to support your nervous system and mood. Early research is finding that B12 deficiency may be linked to memory loss and brain atrophy associated with dementia .
Similarly, researchers believe that B12 may help improve mood and stave off symptoms of depression because it's involved in the process of making and using serotonin. Serotonin is a critical ingredient for maintaining normal psychological function. Furthermore, direct links have been found between low levels of B12 and depression .
Helps Prevent Certain Birth Defects
It's vitally important that expecting and breastfeeding mothers get adequate B12 throughout their pregnancy and early postpartum. We mentioned that B12 is critical in healthy neurological function, but it's also an essential ingredient in the creation of a baby’s neural tubes in utero. Vitamin B12 deficiency could lead to birth defects and even premature labour, which is why doctors strongly recommend prenatal multivitamins . Pregnant or nursing mothers may also consider adding even more through B12 tablets.
May Help Prevent Osteoporosis
The verdict is still out on this claim, but studies do indicate that there's a positive relationship between B12 levels and bone density. In other words, low levels of B12 are associated with low bone density and a greater risk for fracture and osteoporosis.
So it would follow that maintaining adequate B12 levels could help maintain healthy bone structure and possibly prevent osteoporosis . That being said, there’s still more work to be done in this area of study.
May Help Reduce Inflammatory Marker Homocysteine
The independent role of B12 on lowering homocysteine levels is yet unproven, but there's reason to believe that it might. B12 works in concert with folic acid to aid your body in lowering homocysteine, so parsing out exactly what each does is near impossible.
Homocysteine is a biomarker that, at high levels, could indicate risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases, along with degenerative diseases like macular degeneration and possibly Alzheimer's . Further research needs to be done to find out just how helpful supplementation (most easily through B12 tablets, but also possibly through injections) could be for inflammatory disease prevention .
Vitamin B12 Tablets and a Balanced Diet
Eating a diet of whole, nutrient-dense foods is one of the most important pieces of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. We encourage eating well-sourced, high-quality animal proteins and low-carbohydrate fruits and vegetables. However, even then, it's not always possible to get everything you need just from the food on your plate — especially if you are not a fan of eating offal, which is high in bioavailable B12.
Using top-quality vitamin B12 tablets can help boost your mood, your brain function, your red blood cells and your long-term health.
All information provided on our website and within our articles is simply information, opinion, anecdotal thoughts and experiences to provide you with the tools to thrive.
It is not intended to treat or diagnose symptoms and is definitely not intended to be misconstrued for medical advice. We always advise you seek the advice of a trained professional when implementing any changes to your lifestyle and dietary habits.
We do however recommend seeking the services of a trained professional who questions the conventional wisdom to enable you to become the best version of yourself.