Nowadays, there are hundreds of different options to choose from when buying vitamin B12 supplements. To the average person, it can seem like there are no significant differences between most options, making it much harder to decide on the right product. Naturally, some supplements will work much better than others, or may target symptoms in completely different ways.
Today, we’ll be looking at the benefits of taking vitamin B12, including what illnesses and symptoms the vitamin may help to alleviate, as well as what the average consumer should be looking out for when purchasing vitamin B12 products.
What Is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, which is also known as cobalamin, is a vitamin that is essential to the normal functioning of the human body. It’s required for the formation of red blood cells, the maintenance of nerve cells, and the process of DNA synthesis.
This vitamin cannot be naturally produced by our bodies. This means that we need to find other ways to intake it - some of the food we eat, specific vitamin supplements, and even injections can all help us with that.
The average adult has a vitamin B12 recommended daily intake of about 2.4 mcg, though this can vary for individuals with certain illnesses, as well as pregnant or breastfeeding women.
The Benefits of Vitamin B12
One of the main benefits of vitamin B12 is the role it plays in preventing anemia. When somebody is anemic, their red blood cells are unable to supply different parts of the body with sufficient amounts of oxygen. This can cause symptoms like extreme weakness and fatigue, along with shortness of breath, and even chest pains.
Vitamin B12 helps to keep your blood cells small and round, which is the ideal shape for transporting oxygen efficiently. If there is a vitamin B12 deficit in the body, the red blood cells will become larger and oval in shape, preventing them from moving between the bone marrow and the bloodstream at a fast enough rate, eventually leading to the development of anemia.
Preventing Loss of Neurons
Another great benefit of vitamin B12 is improved brain health and memory. As we age, we become more prone to something called brain atrophy, which is the process of losing important neurons in the brain. This can severely affect our ability to process and remember memories, and has been identified as the main cause of dementia.
Taking vitamin B12 supplements can help to significantly slow down the symptoms of brain atrophy. Since the vitamin is used by the body in the maintenance and repair of neurons, scientists believe that consuming higher amounts of it can help to counteract the damage being caused by brain atrophy. Also, studies have shown that the vitamin can help to significantly improve memory performance, regardless of if an individual had a clinically diagnosed degenerative disease or not.
Promoting Healthy Pregnancy
Vitamin B12 is crucial to the healthy progression of a pregnancy. Studies have shown that women with vitamin levels lower than 250 mg/dL were three times more likely to experience complications within their pregnancy than women whose levels of vitamin B12 exceeded 400 mg/dL.
Pregnancy complications associated with low levels of vitamin B12 in the body include premature births and miscarriages. Also, an unborn child’s brain and nervous system require high amounts of vitamin B12, so any deficiencies in the mother’s body may lead to serious birth defects and developmental issues.
What Makes A Good Vitamin B12 Supplement?
Methylcobalamin vs Cyanocobalamin
Methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin are both different forms of vitamin B12. Cyanocobalamin is the more popular version of the vitamin, as it is more cost-effective and considered to be more stable than other forms. However, it is the least effective form, as when it enters the body it first needs to be converted into either methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin in order to be used.
That’s why we recommend purchasing vitamin B12 supplements that contain methylcobalamin instead; you’ll usually find them under the name methyl B12. The vitamin will be absorbed and used by the body much quicker as it is already in its active form - no conversion needed. Also, methylcobalamin has a much higher retention rate, meaning that it stays active in your body longer.
Over the counter vitamin B12 supplements come in a lot of different dosages, ranging from 500 micrograms up to 5,000 micrograms. While each person’s ideal dose will vary depending on their age, gender, and lifestyle, the recommended daily dosage is 2.4 micrograms.
Remember: your body will only absorb and use about 2% of the total amount of vitamin B12 contained in a supplement. So, when taking a 500 microgram supplement, you will actually only use about 10 micrograms. This means that, for some individuals, supplements with a lower dosage may not provide a sufficient amount of vitamin B12.
The best way to know your exact dosage is to contact your doctor, especially if you have any underlying health conditions, are over the age of 50, or are a woman who is pregnant or breastfeeding. In some cases, you may be prescribed a dosage that is much higher than of any over the counter supplement.
Tablets vs Liquids vs Sublinguals
While choosing tablets over liquid or sublingual forms of vitamin B12, or vice versa, seems mostly like a preference, studies have actually shown that the three forms work and get absorbed by the body in different ways.
Tablet forms of vitamin B12 need to first be digested for your body to be able to absorb the vitamin. While for the average person this doesn’t pose much of an issue, individuals suffering from serious vitamin B12 deficiencies may need something that is absorbed much faster.
Both liquid and sublingual forms of vitamin B12 get absorbed by the body at a much quicker rate. This is because they enter the bloodstream directly through the mouth, rather than traveling all the way through our digestive systems and being absorbed after digestion - liquids can be sprayed onto the tongue or in the back of the throat, while sublinguals are placed under the tongue and allowed to melt.