Vitamin B12 – What is it;
What are the Vitamin Benefits; and
How Do I Get Enough?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods. It is added to some foods, and it is available as a dietary supplement and also a prescription medication. Vitamin B12 exists in several forms and contains the mineral cobalt. The vitamin benefits are required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. Any excess unneeded portion of this vitamin is eliminated from the body in the urine. The body can store vitamin B12 in the liver for years.

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It may also be listed on labels or in articles as Adenosylcobalamin, aquocobalamin, cobalamin, cobrynamide, cyanocobalamin, cobamide, hydroxocobalamin, hydroxycyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, and nitrotocobalamin.

Vitamin B12 is dependent upon a second substance, called intrinsic factor, to make its way from the the stomach and intestines into the rest of the body. Intrinsic factor is a unique protein made in the stomach and without it, vitamin B12 cannot gain access to the rest of the body where it is needed.

Who is at risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency? People who are:

  • On Vegan or vegetarian diets;
  • Alcoholic; blood levels may be high but body stores of vitamin B12 in the tissues (eg liver) may be low;
  • Anemic – especially pernicious anemia;
  • Diagnosed with Crohn’s or Celiac Disease;
  • HIV infected people;
  • Or have
  • Tapeworm infestation;
  • A bacterial overgrowth in the intestines;
  • Psychiatric disorders;
  • Severe depression;
Or are taking drugs from the following categories:
  • antibiotics;
  • anticancer medications;
  • anticonvulsants;
  • anti-gout medications;
  • antihypertensives;
  • antiParkinson's medications;
  • antipsychotics;
  • antituberculosis medications;
  • birth control pills;
  • cholesterol-lowering drugs;
  • potassium replacements.
  • If you take 500 or more mg of vitamin C daily it blocks B12 absorption.

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If you are on any of the above medications, please see your health professional and get your vitamin B12 levels checked.

People with pernicious anemia are often treated with injections of vitamin B12. Oral administration are sometimes used as an alternative to vitamin B12 injections. Everyone should include enough foods with vitamin B12 in their daily diet. Absorption of vitamin B12 is reduced with increasing age.

Interesting Fact:
Hydroxocobalamin (a form of vitamin B12) has been recognized for over 40 years as an effective cyanide poisoning antidote. Hydroxocobalamin is considered by some researchers to be an ideal treatment for cyanide poisoning and is currently being used in France for that purpose.

How do other nutrients interact with vitamin B12?

  • Deficiency of vitamin B6 has been shown to reduce B12 absorption in animal studies; Vitamin B6 is required for proper absorption of vitamin B12.
  • It is now known that conversion of vitamin B12 from its non-active form into its active form requires vitamin E. Anyone who is at risk of vitamin E deficiency may also have vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Anyone who is taking folic acid supplements should consult their health care professional about their vitamin B12 levels as excessive intake of folic acid can mask B-12 deficiencies.

This page provides information that should not take the place of medical advice. I encourage you to talk to your health care professional about your use of dietary supplements and questions about what is best for your overall health.

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