What is Vitamin B-12?

3 bottleVitamin B-12, or methylcobalamin, is one of the B-complex vitamins. Your body needs it to make red blood cells and DNA, and it’s necessary for normal nervous system function. Vitamin B-12 is found in animal-sourced foods and it’s also available as a dietary supplement, but you don’t need much — only a couple micrograms every day.


Facts About Vitamin B-12


  1. The scientific name methylcobalamin comes from the mineral called cobalt. All vitamin B-12 contains cobalt.
  2. Vitamin B-12 exists in several forms, including methylcobalamin, cyanocobalamin and 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin, but you don’t have to worry about what form of vitamin B-12 you get from your diet.
  3. Plants don’t make vitamin B-12, so vegans are at a high risk for vitamin B-12 deficiency. Vegans can eat nutritional yeast, which contains some B-12, or take supplements or choose vitamin-fortified foods.
  4. Cells in the lining of your stomach make and secrete a protein called intrinsic factor that’s necessary for absorption of vitamin B-12 from your small intestine into your blood. Intrinsic factor doesn’t affect absorption of the other B-complex vitamins.
  5. People who have pernicious anemia have difficulty absorbing vitamin B-12 from foods and regular dietary supplements. They usually require B-12 injections, nasal gels or large doses (more than 1,000 micrograms) by mouth.
  6. Vitamin B-12 deficiency leads to megaloblastic anemia, which means red blood cells don’t develop properly, so they can’t carry oxygen efficiently. People with megaloblastic anemia suffer from fatigue.
  7. Folate (another B-complex vitamin) is also necessary for red blood cell production and nervous system function. Taking large amounts of folic acid (the supplemental form of folate) can mask a B-12 deficiency.
  8. Taking vitamin B-12 supplements may reduce blood-levels of homocysteine, a type of protein that may be elevated when you have a high risk of cardiovascular disease. However, taking vitamin B-12 (or folic acid) doesn’t appear to reduce that risk.

Get the Advice of a Medical Professional

Vitamin B-12 shots are sometimes used by people who want to increase energy and endurance. While it may help people with a B-12 deficiency, it doesn’t appear to make any difference for most people who already get enough from the diet. No toxic levels have been established for taking high dosages of vitamin B-12 supplements, but you should still talk to your health care provider before taking any type of supplement in large

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