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Published on June 10, 2021

7 Health Benefits of Vitamin B12 (Backed By Science)

7 Health Benefits of Vitamin B12 (Backed By Science)

Vitamin B12 supplements are packing the shelves lately. Whether in the form of chewable gummies or capsules, you have likely seen them in your local grocery store or pharmacy aisles. Now it is time to ask, what’s all the hype around this essential nutrient?

In this article, I’ll give you a quick overview of what exactly Vitamin B12 is as well as reviewing some of the health benefits of this nutrient.

What Is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is also known as Cobalamin. According to Mayo Clinic, it is used in the formation of red blood cells, nerve function, and the creation of DNA. Mayo Clinic notes that it is pretty rare to have a deficiency of Vitamin B12 as your body can store it for several years. However, if you follow a diet low in meat products, such as a vegan or vegetarian diet, you may be at a higher risk for deficiency. Additionally, older adults are more likely to be deficient in Vitamin B12.[1]

According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, mood disturbances (such as depression or confusion), and memory problems.[2] Therefore, it is important to ensure that you are getting enough Vitamin B12 in your diet.

The Main Sources of B12

According to Mayo Clinic, the best sources of Vitamin B12 are animal products, such as poultry, meat, fish, and dairy products. Some foods have Vitamin B12 added to them during processing as well. Fortified breakfast cereals or some commercial yeasts are two examples of this phenomenon.[3]

Given the fact that Vitamin B12 comes mostly from animal sources, those who follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet may have difficulty meeting their requirements of this nutrient. In these cases, Vitamin B12 can be supplemented. Two common ways that B12 is supplemented outside of the diet are by using an oral supplement or injection.

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7 Health Benefits of Vitamin B12

Here are seven science-backed health benefits of vitamin b12.

1. Reduces Risk of Anemia

According to Mayo Clinic, anemia is a condition where your body does not have enough healthy red blood cells. This means that the blood cannot properly transport oxygen to all parts of your body, which can lead to symptoms such as fatigue, cold hands and feet, shortness of breath, or muscle weakness.[4]

Given its role in red blood cell formation, it makes sense that one of the benefits of Vitamin B12 would be the prevention of anemia. When you are deficient in Vitamin B12, your body’s red blood cells become too large and take an irregular shape. This makes them unable to move properly throughout your body, causing a specific type of anemia termed “megaloblastic anemia.”[5]

2. May Reduce the Risk of Osteoporosis

Given the fact that Vitamin B12 is so important in DNA function, it makes sense that it would also be a key component of bone formation.

One study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that individuals with higher Vitamin B12 levels also had higher bone mineral density. Lower bone mineral densities are indicators of osteoporosis. This study showed that individuals who do not have sufficient Vitamin B12 stores may be at risk for osteoporosis.[6]

3. May Improve Heart Health

Homocysteine is an amino acid or a building block of protein. When proteins are broken down, homocysteine is one of the products. Studies have shown that having high levels of homocysteine is a risk factor for developing cardiovascular, or heart, disease. In humans, high levels of homocysteine usually indicate a deficiency in folic acid (Vitamin B9) or Vitamin B12.[7])

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According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Vitamin B12 (along with other B vitamins such as folic acid and Vitamin B6) can lower your homocysteine levels. However, it’s important to note that the NIH reports that taking B12 supplements does not reduce the risk of getting cardiovascular disease.[8]

If you’re looking for a supplement to specifically improve heart health, it may be beneficial to look into an Omega-3 fatty acid supplement instead.

4. May Reduce the Risk of Birth Defects

As mentioned previously, it is recommended that women who are pregnant add a greater amount of Vitamin B12 to their diet than the average adult. This is because Vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with birth defects, such a neural tube defects, and complications in pregnancy.[9] Therefore, pregnant women need to ensure that they are meeting the recommended daily intake of Vitamin B12 to prevent birth defects in their children.

5. May Reduce Your Risk of Depression

According to the World Health Organization, depression is extremely common and affects more than 264 million individuals worldwide. This mental health disease can affect individuals of all ages.[10]

The American Women’s Health and Aging Study found that Vitamin B12 deficiency was found to be more common amongst adult women with depression than among those who were not depressed. In fact, they found that those individuals with Vitamin B12 deficiency were more than twice as likely as their non-deficient counterparts to be depressed.[11]

Another study conducted supports these results in a population of elderly individuals. The Rotterdam Study showed that elderly subjects who were deficient in Vitamin B12 were more likely to have depression.[12]

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Studies have also shown that Vitamin B12 supplementation may improve symptoms of depression. In a study published in the Open Neurology Journal, 100% of depressed individuals who were treated with Vitamin B12 supplementation showed a decrease in depressive symptoms after three months.[13]

6. May Improve Your Cognition

A study published in the American Academy of Neurology journal showed that a concentration of B12 markers in the body was associated with cognitive function and brain volume. The study found that if these markers showed a deficiency in Vitamin B12, total brain volume may be reduced, leading to impaired cognition.[14]

Another study found that individuals with lower Vitamin B12 concentrations had poorer memory performance and poorer learning ability.[15] These findings demonstrate the importance of having adequate Vitamin B12 stores for cognitive function.

7. May Improve Hair, Skin, and Nail Health

One of the most popular reasons for taking Vitamin B-12 is its promised effects on hair, skin, and nails. According to the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, deficiency of Vitamin B12 can commonly lead to hyperpigmentation, hair changes, skin changes, and glossitis (inflammation of the tongue).[16] Getting in a sufficient amount of Vitamin B12, either through diet or supplementation, will prevent these negative reactions from occurring.

How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is recommended that adults get 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of Vitamin B12 per day. Some specific groups of adults require differing levels of this nutrient. Pregnant women are recommended to take 2.6 mcg per day of B12, and women who are breastfeeding are recommended to increase their daily dosage of Vitamin B12 to 2.8 mcg.[17]

Given the fact that Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, your body only absorbs as much as it needs and will pass the remainder out through your urine. This means that there is no benefit to taking greater than the recommended amount of Vitamin B12. Additionally, this means that Vitamin B12 toxicity is extremely unlikely, making it extremely safe.

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In Conclusion

Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin, plays an important role in red blood cell formation, nerve function, and DNA synthesis. As I’ve discussed here, getting enough Vitamin B12, either through diet or supplementation, may improve cognition, reduce your risk of osteoporosis, and reduce your risk of developing depression or reduce depressive symptoms.

While it’s always preferable to get vitamins through diet, Vitamin B12 supplements are generally considered to be safe, especially for those whose diets are low in animal products such as meat, dairy, and fish.

If you’re worried about your Vitamin B12 levels, we recommend speaking with your doctor to determine whether your levels are actually low and if supplementation is right for you.

More About the Vitamins for Energy

Featured photo credit: angela pham via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Samantha Klig, RD

Registered Dietitian

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Last Updated on June 9, 2021

How to Lose 10 Pounds in 3 Weeks: 20 Simple Tips

How to Lose 10 Pounds in 3 Weeks: 20 Simple Tips

Weight loss has become a sticky subject of confusion, conflicting information and myths. Before you know it, you’re on the crash-course diet from hell and getting no-where! Sustainable weight loss is not a fad diet or program, it’s a lifestyle. With these 20 proven weight loss tips, you can lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks. Best of all, you will set yourself up for continued progress every week!

1. The Golden Rule: Calories In vs. Calories Out

This simple fact simply cannot be overruled – to lose weight you must burn more calories than you consume.

Use tools to help track and measure your daily intake then slowly taper down. Start with 500kcal steps or lower until you observe a consistent weekly loss.

Never go dangerously low, eating much below 1200-1600 can stall your progress and harm your health!

2. Set Attainable Goals And Track Your Progress

Achieving each goal will help spur you on, so be realistic and start small. Here is an example of an easily achievable goal progression:

  • Lose weight each week
  • Lose 1-3 pounds per week
  • Lose 10 pounds in 3 weeks
  • Fit into size 30 jeans!

3. Consider Skipping Breakfast

Breakfast is commonly considered the most important meal of the day, however, it is not so when it comes to weight loss.

Intermittent fasting can be a useful fat-loss tool. Restrict yourself to a smaller eating window by skipping breakfast and only eating from 12-8pm. You will reduce your daily calorie intake without restricting your lunch and dinner!

4. Drink More Water (Especially Before Meals)

Drinking water an hour before eating has two proven benefits for weight loss:

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  • 24-30% boost in metabolism for 1-1.5 hours after intake[1]
  • Increased chance of consuming less calories which further supports weight loss[2]

5. Make Coffee Your New Best Friend

Coffee has received a bad reputation in the past, however, it should be known that quality coffee is rich in antioxidants and beneficial to weight loss.

The caffeine content will boost your body’s metabolism by up to 10%,[3] leading to a 10-29% increase in fat burning power. Take it black, with no added sugar!

6. Make Green Tea Your Second Best Friend

Green tea provides a milder dose of caffeine but it is abundant in wonderful catechins. These antioxidants will work with the caffeine in a perfect fat burning harmony!

7. Always Check For Added Sugar

Sugar has demonstrated worryingly strong links with obesity, diabetes[4] and heart disease[5] (to name a few).

But even if you do not add it yourself, you should check the ingredients of your sauces or packaged foods. Even self-proclaimed health foods can be riddled with added sugar!

8. Cut Out Simple Carbohydrates

Simple/refined carbohydrates are quickly absorbed, spiking your blood sugar and insulin levels in the process.[6] As a result, you will feel hunger and cravings come back again in no time!

Avoid all sugar or refined grains by avoiding the following foods:

  • Cookies, candy and sweets
  • Packaged cereals
  • White bread and rice
  • Cakes

9. Scale Down Your Portion Sizes

It pays to become aware of how much you are eating, exercise portion control and slowly scale it down.

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Even small reductions of 10-20% are often enough to tip the balance and trigger weight loss. Try measuring your portions more carefully and don’t underestimate the power of using smaller bowls![7]

10. Keep Healthy Food On Standby for Stacks

The power of temptation is mighty, so why not remove it completely?

Only keep healthy snacks within reach, then you won’t be able to binge on junk food! Here are some healthy ideas to stock your cupboard:

  • Whole fruit
  • Handful of nuts
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Vegetables

11. Spice Up Your Life

Breathe new life into your dishes and reinforce your weight loss efforts with the power of cayenne pepper! Capsaicin from cayenne pepper and other spicy foods helps to ramp up metabolism and decrease appetite.[8]

12. Top Up Your Protein Intake

Protein rich foods not only keep you fuller for longer[9] but burn more energy during digestion. Studies have shown that swapping calories for whey protein supplements can boost weight loss whilst increasing lean muscle![10]

Alternatively, here are a number of protein-rich food sources:

  • Lean beef
  • Skinless chicken breasts
  • Eggs
  • Salmon
  • Low-fat yogurt

13. Balance Your Diet With Complex Carbs

Consuming complex carbs will produce a sustained energy release and keep blood sugar levels manageable. You can easily keep hunger and cravings at bay with these nutrient dense complex carbs:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Brown rice
  • Wholegrains
  • Beans and legumes

14. Forget About Fast Food

Not matter how healthy it may claim to be, fast food is almost always laden with heart-clogging trans fats,[11] excessive sugar and salt.

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Worse yet, these meals are high in calories whilst low in nutritional value, making them a terrible choice for fuel. Before you know it, you will have broken the cardinal rule of calories in vs. calories out!

15. Watch Out for “Hidden Calories”

There’s no need to completely forgo your favorite condiments, just make sure you are aware of their true caloric impact. It’s easy to go overboard and negate much of your hard work!

Go easy with the following condiments and toppings, they are surprisingly heavy in calories:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Salad dressing
  • Cream
  • Cheese
  • Butter
  • Oils

16. Choose Low-Medium GI Foods

High GI foods sources cause sugar levels to shoot up, the resultant spike in insulin will actually encourage dreaded fat storage![12]

Check out the GI scale and choose low-medium GI foods. Your insulin levels will remain under control, you will feel fuller for longer and find it easier to lose weight!

17. Opt For Weight Training Over Cardio

Weight training burns a significant amount of calories, keeping you strong, fit and healthy in the process. It’s more effective than cardio for body recomposition as it helps preserve essential muscle mass whilst you lose weight.[13]

Studies have also shown a significant increase in metabolic rate both during and after your workout,[14] further supporting your weight loss efforts!

Choose a routine that uses compound lifts such as Presses, Squats and Deadlifts. These exercises recruit the largest amount of muscles per movement, ideal for maintaining lean muscle mass and trimming body fat.

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18. Go Walking or Cycling

Consistent small actions soon add up to big changes. For this reason, why not choose to walk or cycle whenever you can? You will burn more calories as you go about your day without the need for further diet restrictions.

You can burn more calories as you go about your day, without any further diet restriction. If you’re physically able there is no excuse, take the stairs over escalators and lifts!

19. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is highly underrated for weight loss. Forget about the 6-hour minimum claim, many of us require 8-9 hours to operate at peak efficiency.

Both duration and quality of sleep will have a great influence on hormones that control body composition. In fact, poor sleep has shown worrying links to obesity, increasing the risk in adults by 55%![15]

20. Be Careful Of Liquid Calories!

We all know alcohol dehydrates and damages our liver and kidneys. But it can also thwart weight loss efforts as an unexpected source of calories.

You may be surprised to know a beer can equate to 150kcal, 125kcal for a glass of red wine and a whopping 400Kcal for a single sweet Piña Colada! Instead, try sticking to tonic water with a slice of lime, your body will thank you!

    So there you have the 20 simple lifestyle tips that will support you in achieving healthy weight loss. Adopt as many as you can and you will easily lose 10 pounds or more in 3 weeks!

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    Featured photo credit: Lecic via shutterstock.com

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