Are You Getting Sufficient Vitamin B12?


Vitamin B12 is commonly referred to as the energy vitamin, although it has a number of other very important functions within our bodies. It is estimated that up to 40% of the UK’s elderly ‘meat-eating’ adults may be deficient in vitamin B12 and that half of the adult population may have sub-optimal levels. These figures indicate that millions of adults may be deficient in vitamin B12.

Historically, many experts believed that vitamin B-12 deficiency was solely associated with vegetarians since plant sources have virtually no vitamin B12. This belief was wrong because vitamin B12 deficiency is actually widespread and the older you get, the more likely you are to be deficient.

What is Vitamin B12 and what role does it play in our body?

Vitamin B12 is scientifically named ‘cobalamin’. It is normally found in its natural state only in animal sources of food including beef, lamb, venison, salmon, chicken and eggs. Vitamin B12 is simply not available from plants since plants do not require vitamin B-12 for any function and therefore have no mechanisms to produce or store it. Plant sources of vitamin B12 are analogs and actually block the uptake of vitamin B-12 leading to deficiencies, particularly amongst strict vegans and vegetarians.

Vitamin B12 is actually a co-enzyme that is required by the enzymes within our bodies to perform wide and varying roles. It is involved in many critical functions in the body including:

  • The production of red blood cells which carry vital oxygen for energy release.
  • Healthy digestion, food absorption, carbohydrate and fat metabolism, which are vital for energy production.
  • Helps promote healthy circulation.
  • Is required for the production of adrenal hormones which are involved in stress management and energy production.
  • Necessary for normal nerve growth and function.
  • Helping to promote a healthy immune system.
  • Crucial for supporting lower homocysteine levels, a compound linked to cardiovascular concerns.
  • May help prevent cognitive decline and certainly helps support mental concentration.
  • The manufacture of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
  • Helps convert carbohydrates into sugar for energy.

How do you know if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency?

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Fatigue and a general lack of energy.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Inability to concentrate.
  • Mood swings.
  • Tingling in the extremities.
  • Sleep disturbances.

The symptoms mentioned above are generally easily recognizable, however the implications of vitamin B-12 deficiency are far reaching and not immediately apparent. It may help protect against cardiovascular and cognitive concerns associated with excess homocysteine in the bloodstream, as well affecting fertility, pregnancy and the nervous system.

What causes a vitamin B12 deficiency?

As we get older, we are more likely to have a vitamin B12 deficiency. One of the reasons for this is simply not eating food rich in this vitamin and the other reason is due to our inability to absorb this crucial vitamin.

As we age, our digestive system simply becomes inefficient. We produce less digestive enzymes, which causes bloating and other digestive concerns. Specifically, the lining of our stomach loses its ability to produce sufficient hydrochloric acid which is required to release vitamin B12 from food. Other factors that many cause vitamin B12 deficiency include the over-use of antacids and some specific widely used drugs since they lower stomach acid secretion. Vitamin B12 deficiency is also linked to those people suffering from H pylori, a common cause of stomach ulcers.

However, the main causal factor for vitamin B12 deficiency in the adult population is due to a lack of intrinsic factor, a protein that binds to vitamin B12 and allows it to be absorbed further down in the intestine. This is the main causal factor of vitamin B12 deficiency in adults and is totally out of our control as it is one of the symptoms of ageing.

These days there are many foods, often cereals, which are fortified with vitamin B12 indicating its importance. However, processed cereals and grains are not particularly healthy. They break down into sugar easily and stimulate insulin production. It is for this reason that I recommend the use of vitamin B-12 by way of supplementation to avoid a deficiency.

You may wish to investigate vitamin B12 deficiency if:

  • You are a vegan or follow a vegetarian diet.
  • You are over 50.
  • Have a H pylori infection.
  • Regularly use antacids.
  • Drink more than three or four cups of coffee on a daily basis.
  • Suffer from indigestion, heartburn or inflammatory gastric concerns.
  • Suffer from fatigue, mental fog, an inability to concentrate and mood swings.

What is the best vitamin B12 supplement?

There are basically three types of vitamin B12 (cobalamins) used in supplements.

  • Cyanocobalamin
  • Hydroxycobalamin
  • Methylcobalamin

Cyanocobalamin is the most popular form of vitamin B-12 used in supplements however studies indicate that methylcobalamin is the most active form of vitamin B-12. Taking other forms of vitamin B-12 is capsule or tablet forms still relies on the availability of intrinsic factor, the protein that binds to vitamin B-12 allowing its absorption in the intestines, which is liable to be deficient once you are over 50. Additionally, the other forms of cobalamin need to be converted into a coenzyme, a process that is challenging.

If you are not getting sufficient vitamin B12 in your diet, or suspect that your body is not able to absorb vitamin B12 efficiently, I recommend you supplement using Methyl B-12 by Jarrow Formula’s. This supplement provides the active form of vitamin B12, methylcobalamin, in a lozenge form which ensures that it passes straight into the bloodstream and avoids the gastric route which has problems which I have already touched upon earlier. Vitamin B12 in this form is safe and ensures optimum delivery into the bloodstream without any side effects. A regular intake of vitamin B-12 can vastly improve the quality of your life and may help protect you against debilitating diseases.

This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner.

Nutrition, Shabir Daya | , , , , , ,
  • Jill Tattersall

    I really enjoy reading your balanced articles. Can I appeal for advice? There are so many products out there and there is only any point in taking something that is aborbable/effective!

    I’ve long thought I had a B12 deficiency but tests over the years have been negative so no medical action. However I’ve taken B12 orally (most recently in your Jarrow and spray form). To little effect I fear. (But there’s also the question of dosage levels.) Last year tingling feet (added to a long list including sore tongue, thinning hair, insomnia) got me referred to neurology, so far inconclusive although it has revealed raised homocysteine levels. These, I find after a quick google, are related to an inability to absorb folates. The docs seem not to know much about this and continue to consult amongst themselves… meanwhile…It seems well known in the US (next epidemiological concern like cholesterol?) and I’ve found references to L5 MTHF as a treatment..

    In short it’s proving hard to get the help I need but if there’s anything I can do for myself I will – the consequences of not treating B12 shortage and having raised homocysteine are not pretty!

  • Victoria Health

    Dear Jill, Homocysteine has a far wider impact that simply affecting our cardiovascular system since it is an inflammatory and damaging compound and has been linked to poor cognitive function and numerous other concerns.
    Certainly folates and b12 are both recognised to reduce homocysteine levels and it may be prudent to introduce Metafolin into your regimen. Shabir

  • Jill Tattersall

    Thank you for the quick reply – I take it Metafolin is a form of folate rather than a product (can’t see it listed)? I obviously need the most ‘available’ form I can get. High homocysteine scares me much more than than it seems to bother my doc! Your articles are beautifully written and clear, many thanks.

  • Victoria Health

    Dear Jill, Metafolin is the active and highly available form of folic acid. Here is the link to these products.

  • Leonora

    Hello Shabir. I take My favorite Multiple Energiser and that has 30mcg of Vit B12 in it. As I am a poor sleeper, am over 50 and regularly seem to lack oomph, would it be worthwhile to take this Vit B12? I am also wondering if I should go back to CoQ10 as well. I take a lot of vit and mins and it was established years ago that I do not absorb nutrients that effectively. I also take VIt D3 etc. With the menopause, sleep is never continuous! I do take Sage Complex and Agnus castus too! Could you also say when is the best time of day to take the MultiVit. I currently take in the evening after supper. Many thanks as always Leo

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Leonora, once we reach our forties, we lose the ability to absorb sufficient vitamin B12 through the gut which is why it would be better to use Methyl B12 which is a sublingual form which gets absorbed through the myriad of capillaries under the tongue. Vitamin B12 is required for the manufacture of the sleep hormone melatonin so yes please do take this supplement.
    Adding Co-Enzyme Q10 by way of ubiquinol supplements would be good for all round health.
    The best time to take a multivitamin is with some food preferably the biggest meal of the day so please carry on with taking it with your evening meal. Shabir

  • Leonora

    Goodness! That was quick. many thanks again as always

  • Leonora

    Sorry Shabir. One more question. How long do you think I will need to wait before I could possibly feel the benefits of taking the VitB 12 and also the CoQ10?

  • Victoria Health

    You are welcome Leonora

  • Victoria Health

    Hi Leonora, CoEnzyme Q10 should provide positive benefits within a month but for B12 I would allow two to three months. Shabir

  • Leonora

    Thank-you – timings are always good to know as for years I didn’t realise how long some supplements took to ‘work!’