Can Vitamin B12 Improve Your Energy Level and Mood?
By: Rachel Novik, DO • Posted on October 11, 2023
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a role in red blood cell formation, nerve function, and DNA synthesis. It is an essential B vitamin, meaning the body doesn't make vitamin B12, and you have to get it from your diet.
Most people are able to obtain adequate amounts of B12 through their diet. Common food sources of B12 include meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Additionally, fortified breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast can be a good source of B12.
Who is at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency?
People who are vegan are often deficient in vitamin B12. Additionally, medical conditions affecting stomach and nutrient absorption such as Chron's and UC, gastric bypass, colon surgery are more likely to have deficiency. Similarly, people who are on medications that affect GI transit and absorption such as Proton Pump Inhibitors, colchicine (a medication prescribed for gout), and the diabetes medication, Metformin, can be at higher risk for B12 deficiency.
Low B12 levels can be related to the following symptoms:
- Paresthesia (numbness and tingling)
- Muscle weakness
- Mood concerns
- Mood changes
How much vitamin B12 is recommended?
The recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 for both women and men is 2.4 mcg. If you are low in B12, your doctor may recommend oral or injectable supplementation. Vitamin B12 supplements are considered safe - your body absorbs what it needs and any excess is excreted in your urine.
Vitamins to take for B12 deficiency
You can supplement B12 through B Complex vitamins as well as a vitamin containing only B12. There are other forms of B12 such as adenosylcobalamin, methylcobalamin, and hydroxycobalamin. If you are unable to swallow a pill, there is a sublingual formulation (dissolves under the tongue) available as well as a nasal gel.
Populations at higher risk of B12 deficiency
- Vegetarians and Vegans
- People with digestive diseases
- People with Pernicious Anemia
- People with a history of stomach or colon surgery
- People with Transcobalamin II deficiency
- People with gastritis or on medications for stomach acid
Common Symptoms of B12 Deficiency
- Fatigue and weakness
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Oral sores
- Numbness or tingling in hands and feet
- Vision problems
- Poor memory, confusion
- Balance and gait instability
What are the health benefits of vitamin B12?
Some studies have linked elevated B12 with high risk of certain cancers, however more data is needed at this time.
B12 supplements are often advertised for boosting energy, athletic performance, and endurance. However, if you get enough through your diet, these are unlikely to have added benefit.
Medications that effect B12 absorption
- Gastric acid inhibitors: omeprazole (Prilosec®), lansoprazole (Prevacid®), cimetidine (Tagamet®), and ranitidine (Zantac®)
Foods with vitamin B12
- Clams (without shells)
- Nutritional yeast, fortified
- Canned Tuna
- Fortified Breakfast cereals
If you have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, see your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider might order a vitamin B12 test that measures how much vitamin B12 is in your blood.
High levels of vitamin B12
Why is my vitamin B12 level high?
The most common cause of high B12 in the blood is due to recent ingestion or injection of supplemental vitamin B12. Normally, this is no concern about overdosing on B12 supplements because excess can be excreted in your urine.
A high vitamin B12 level could be from a diet high in animal products such as meat, eggs and shellfish. However, it is extremely rare to have a high blood level from too much vitamin B12 in the diet.
There are cases where an individual has an elevated vitamin B12 level that is seen as an incidental finding in someone who has not recently received a vitamin B12 injection or taken a vitamin B12 supplement. Limited observational studies have reported associations of increased vitamin B12 levels with other conditions and disease states, including:
- Liver disease due to release of B12 from damaged liver cells into the bloodstream
- Kidney disease due to impaired function of the kidneys to excrete excess B12
- Increased levels of transcobalamin, which is a transporter of B12 in the bloodstream
- Inflammatory conditions: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus
- Hematologic (or blood) cancers: acute leukemia, multiple myeloma
- Hematopoietic disorder: myeloproliferative neoplasm, myelodysplastic syndrome, hypereosinophilic syndrome, transient neutrophilia
Most of these medical conditions are often present with other abnormal lab findings such as impaired kidney function, liver function, anemia, low white blood cell count and also other signs and symptoms of problems.
What to do if your vitamin B12 level is high?
If vitamin B12 levels continue to be high, you should see a hematologist for a follow up evaluation to receive further review of your history, family history and further laboratory testing if appropriate.
Avoid supplements high in B12 for now, eat a varied healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and check to see if B12 is in any supplements you take.
Be Strong, Be Healthy, Be in Charge!
-Rachel Novik, DO
About Rachel Novik, DO
Dr. Rachel Novik is a Board Certified Family Medicine physician. She is a first year clinical Specialized Women’s Health Fellow at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Specialized Women’s Health.
Dr. Novik graduated from New York University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and a minor in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. She then completed a post-baccalaureate degree for pre-medical sciences at John Carroll University and ultimately attended Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, at their Cleveland campus.
Dr. Novik graduated from University Hospitals St. John Medical Center’s Family Medicine Residency program, where she served as chief resident and helped create a women’s health curriculum. She has a passion for working with women at all stages of their lives. During residency, she developed a desire to focus her practice on women in their middle and later decades, where care gaps often exist.
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- Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin B12. (n.d.)
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