Everything You Need to Know about Vitamin B12
What Is Vitamin B12 Anyway?
Every day it seems like there is a new health trend popping up that oftentimes doesn’t even make much sense.
Everyone wants to take care of their body the best way they know how, but it’s super easy to get sidetracked with all the junk food, alcohol, and conveniences in modern society.
Is my multivitamin enough or even necessary? What supplements are scientifically proven to help my body instead of being sold by celebrities as a magic pill to cure every ailment under the sun?
Believe it or not, B12 is an essential vitamin that everyone benefits from taking.
According to the National Institutes of Health, vitamin B12 is utilized by the body to make red blood cells, synthesize DNA, and aid our neurological functions. Healthy levels of B12 in the body help prevent anemia.
Like other B vitamins, B12 helps our bodies stay strong and energetic. B12, in particular, helps our bodies break down the foods we consume and turns those calories into fuel. Without B12, we wouldn’t even be able to lift ourselves out of bed.
Is B12 Natural?
B12 does naturally exist in our bodies as a key helper in producing chemicals that aid digestion.
People used to be able to get their daily dose of B12 from water, but, due to modern sanitation processes, B12 and other naturally occurring vitamins and minerals are filtered out.
B12 is available in certain foods like meats, dairy, and eggs. Although B12 is not found in plant-based foods, vegetarians and vegans need not despair!
Supplements are a great way for omnivores, vegans, and vegetarians alike to ensure they are getting proper nutrition.
One of the latest health trends is to eat only “natural” foods, but scientific advancements have helped us prepare our foods in the most beneficial ways.
While striving to eat more unprocessed foods is a great goal, there is also no need to fear “unnatural” foods in some cases.
Cereal, for example, is not only tasty, but fortified with dozens of vitamins and minerals that would take a whole lot of fruits, vegetables, and grains to match the nutritional values.
Let’s face it, most of us can admit to not eating the daily recommended amount of fruits and vegetables.
Although vegetarians and vegans are more likely to suffer from a B12 deficiency since they aren’t eating animal products, omnivores aren’t immune either.
A study published by the US National Library of Medicine illustrates why it’s so important to learn about what our bodies need and how to notice if we are deficient.
What Are the Symptoms of a B12 Deficiency?
Have you ever had a strange symptom, researched on WebMD, then convinced yourself you had cancer?
Unfortunately, a lot of symptoms are signs of multiple health problems, which makes self-diagnosing really challenging.
An article from Prevention lists 9 clear-cut symptoms that make recognizing a B12 deficiency easier before it’s too late.
If you’re experiencing problems with energy, mood, or forgetfulness, you may be lacking in B12.
If everyday activities like lifting small weights or staying awake at your desk even after a good night’s sleep trouble you, try taking a B vitamin supplement to increase energy and productivity.
If you’re consistently doing wacky things that are out-of-character for you, like walking into a room without knowing why or forgetting where you place things, then you may be showing symptoms of neurological stress put on the body by not having enough B12.
While everyone has off days, and many women can experience hormonal spikes in emotions, if you’re finding yourself getting upset often for unexplainable or silly reasons, you may not have enough B12 necessary to regulate your mood.
There are also symptoms related to appearance. Unusual paleness could be a marker for low red blood cell production.
If you’re bruising easily or have a yellowish hue, taking a blood test can rule out B12 deficiencies and other diseases like hepatitis.
Lastly, problems with your nervous system like dizziness and tingling felt throughout the body could mean that your B12 deficiency is causing nerve damage.
While a doctor is always recommended to diagnose health problems, if your symptoms are minor and you have an aversion toward doctors, try taking a B12 supplement and see if your problems go away.
Annual blood tests are recommended to monitor vitamin levels to make sure your diet is healthy.
Should People Take a B12 Supplement?
If you are one of those people who is hesitant about taking supplements, check out the video “Should Vegans Take B12 Supplements” by Mic. the Vegan.
Although his content is focused on veganism, the data he presents in all of his videos is beneficial for everyone.
One reason why people shouldn’t fear supplements is that, if you eat meat, you are already inadvertently taking supplements.
He states that 90% of the world’s B12 supplements are given to animals. Any other vitamins only found in meat can also be accredited to animals being fed supplements.
When we eat, we absorb everything from that substance. While you can get a lot of your daily nutrients from animal products, it comes at the price of heart-damaging saturated fats and cholesterol.
For optimal health, you can also skip the meat and go straight to the source: the supplements.
By limiting meat consumption, you’re also limiting your exposure to harmful substances like antibiotics and growth hormones.
Are Supplements My Only Option If I Don’t Eat Meat?
If you didn’t eat meat a few decades ago, it’s likely you would be B12 deficient. With the rise in popularity of plant-based diets, the demand for research on its safety and health benefits has helped vegetarians and vegans today thrive on the diet.
Now that people know that B12 deficiencies are a common problem amongst herbivores, more companies are starting to fortify plant-based foods with vitamins and minerals that are harder to obtain while eating plant-based.
Foods that contain B12 include plant-based milk, nutritional yeast, and cereals. If you struggle to remember taking a supplement every day, achieving proper nutrition can be as easy as incorporating these three things into your regular meal plans.
Not every brand is fortified, so make sure you read the nutrition labels and look for daily values of the vitamins you are looking to include in your diet.
Keep in mind that vitamins can degrade with heat, so if you are preparing a hot dish such as oatmeal, add your milk after it’s cooked.
There are several kinds of fortified plant-based milk to choose from and each offers its own benefits.
Almond milk, which is great for weight-loss, is mild and comes in different flavors. Soy milk, which has a similar consistency to cow’s milk, can replace any dish or drink where you would use animal milk.
Nutritional yeast is popular because it has a cheesy taste. A sprinkle of nutritional yeast on your pasta and rice dishes can replace parmesan and help you reach your daily recommended intake of 250 mcg of B12. Vegan cheese sauces like alfredo can greatly benefit from adding nutritional yeast.
Which Foods Are Rich in B12?
Vegetarian and vegan sources:
- Plant-based milk
- Nutritional yeast
- Fortified cereals
Are There Any Side Effects or Dangers to a B12 Pill?
Too much of anything is bad, which is why if you’re suspicious of a B12 deficiency, you shouldn’t panic and swallow a whole bottle of pills.
Since B12 absorption rates are low, your body wouldn’t even be able to process that much B12 in one dose.
Luckily, B12 vitamins are very safe and practical to use. Like any other vitamin, if consumed in excess, your body has a natural filtration system that pushes out whatever you don’t absorb as waste.
Many people won’t experience any negative side effects after incorporating it into their diet, but some minor issues may occur.
According to Everyday Health, headache, itching, swelling, anxiousness, and involuntary movements can be caused by B12 supplementation.
More serious but rare side effects include low levels of blood potassium, congestive heart failure, blood clots, and allergic reactions.
Everyone should be cautious about incorporating any new kind of pill into their regimen because of chemical interactions.
If you take Leukeran, Prilosec, Colcrys, and goldenseal, then you should not take B12 supplements.
Other things to avoid while taking B12 are alcohol and grapefruit. It’s well-known that alcohol has many negative health consequences and should be consumed in moderation, but alcohol also decreases all B vitamins in your body. Depleted B vitamins are a factor of why hangovers are so gruesome.
What Is the Best Way to Take a Vitamin B12 Supplement?
There are two popular ways to ingest B12: sprays and pills. If you have a hard time swallowing pills, B12 sprays come in delicious flavors that will make supplementation a pleasant part of your routine. Pills are also a great option if you’re looking for simplicity. The pills are small and flavorless.
Keep in mind that B12 is best absorbed when taken with a meal, so before you reach for dessert, try to remember your supplement first.
Dr. Michael Greger, renowned physician, recommends either taking one large 2,500 mcg dose of B12 once a week or taking 250 mcg daily.
Since B12 isn’t fully absorbed by the body, consuming large amounts of the vitamin is necessary to ensure the proper amount is available to our bodies.
Smaller, more frequent doses of B12 are easier for the body to use, but one large dose a week is both sufficient and easier to remember.
If daily routines are an important part of your life, then finding small dosage pills is a must. You definitely don’t want to waste your money by taking too much for your body to use.
The great news is that B12 is incredibly easy to find. Any store with a supplement section is bound to carry B12 since more people are becoming aware of its significance.
Online stores like Amazon even offer dozens of options that allow you to pick the supplement best suited to your needs and preferences.
If you’re looking for well-rounded health, many multivitamins contain B12, so you can ensure you’re sufficiently supplying your body with everything it needs in one convenient pill. Just be sure to read the nutrition labels to confirm B12 is included.
Can B12 Help Me Lose Weight?
Since an overwhelming percentage of Americans struggle with weight, it’s no wonder that we’re all searching for a magical pill that can help us shed excess pounds. Unfortunately, that pill doesn’t exist yet.
Supplying our bodies with the proper nutrition and exercise they need is pertinent to weight loss and health, so B12 vitamins can certainly be a helpful component of your efforts. However, there are no studies that show a direct correlation between B12 and weight loss.
Since B12 helps break down carbohydrates and converts fat and protein into energy, taking a supplement can help set you up for the success of establishing a regular exercise regimen.
However, if you’re not getting adequate sleep, don’t expect B12 to replace the recovery your body undergoes as you snooze.
While there are plenty of anecdotes online regarding other peoples’ side effects of B12, you should only trust what is scientifically supported. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
What Is the Takeaway of This?
B12 is necessary for blood, nerve, and digestive bodily functions. Symptoms of a deficiency may include dizziness, loss of energy, and unstable mood. B12 is easily ingested in both omnivorous and herbivorous diets, but supplements are available as well.
There are few side effects of taking B12 supplements, but some mild complaints include a headache and swelling. While B12 supplements may make you feel more energetic and help your weight loss goals, it is not a magical cure.