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What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in various bodily functions. It is essential for the production of red blood cells, DNA synthesis, neurological function, and the metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids. Vitamin B12 is not produced by the body, so it must be obtained through dietary sources or supplements.

Why is Vitamin B12 important?

Vitamin B12 is involved in several key functions in the body:

  • Red Blood Cell Production: Vitamin B12 is necessary for the production of healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body. Deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia, characterized by large and immature red blood cells.
  • Nervous System Health: Vitamin B12 plays a critical role in maintaining the health of the nervous system. It helps in the formation of the protective covering of nerves called myelin, which is essential for proper nerve function. Deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling sensations, and difficulty with balance and coordination.
  • DNA Synthesis: Vitamin B12 is involved in DNA synthesis, which is necessary for cell growth and division. It plays a vital role in the production of new cells throughout the body.
  • Energy Production: Vitamin B12 is involved in the metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. It helps convert food into energy, making it important for maintaining overall energy levels.

Who may be at risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency?

Certain groups of individuals may be at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency:

  • Vegans and Vegetarians: Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-based foods, making it challenging for individuals following a strict vegan or vegetarian diet to obtain adequate amounts of vitamin B12. They should consider supplementation or consume fortified foods to ensure adequate intake.
  • Older Adults: With age, the body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases. Older adults may have reduced production of stomach acid and intrinsic factor, a protein required for vitamin B12 absorption. Regular monitoring of vitamin B12 levels and supplementation may be necessary for older individuals.
  • Individuals with Gastrointestinal Disorders: Certain gastrointestinal disorders, such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and gastric bypass surgery, can affect the absorption of vitamin B12. Regular monitoring and supplementation may be required for individuals with these conditions.

Is Vitamin B12 safe for pregnant women?

Vitamin B12 is crucial for the healthy development of the fetus. Pregnant women should ensure they have adequate vitamin B12 intake through their diet or supplements. It's recommended to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage during pregnancy.

Is Vitamin B12 safe for children?

Vitamin B12 is important for the growth and development of children. Adequate vitamin B12 intake should be ensured through a balanced diet or supplements. It's advisable to consult with a pediatrician to determine the appropriate dosage for children.

Are there vegan options for Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal-based foods, making it challenging for vegans to obtain adequate amounts solely through their diet. However, there are vegan-friendly options available, such as vitamin B12-fortified plant-based foods or supplements derived from non-animal sources like bacteria. It's important for vegans to ensure they have a reliable source of vitamin B12 to meet their nutritional needs.

How much Vitamin B12 do you need?

The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 varies depending on age, sex, and life stage. In general, adults require around 2.4 micrograms per day. Pregnant and breastfeeding

women may require higher amounts. It's important to follow the specific recommendations provided by healthcare professionals.

When should I take my Vitamin B12 supplement?

Vitamin B12 supplements can be taken at any time of the day, with or without food. However, it's advisable to follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer or consult with a healthcare professional for personalized guidance.


Possible interactions include:

  • Aminosalicylic acid (Paser)
  • Colchicine (Colcrys, Mitigare, Gloperba)
  • Metformin (Glumetza, Fortamet, others)
  • Proton pump inhibitors. (Omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid) or other stomach acid-reducing drugs)
  • Vitamin C supplements

Your doctor might recommend changing drugs or timing doses to offset any potential interactions.

How should I store my Vitamin B12 supplement?

Vitamin B12 supplements should be stored in a cool, dry place, away from moisture and direct sunlight. Always follow the storage instructions provided on the supplement bottle.

The information provided in this guide is for educational purposes only and should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new dietary supplement or making changes to your current routine.


National Institutes of Health. "Vitamin B12: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals." Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed 2023.

Vitamin B12 - Mayo Clinic Guide. Accessed in 2023

Ask Dr. Rob about vitamin B12 deficiency - Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed in 2023.