Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential vitamin that your body needs but cannot produce.
It’s found naturally in animal products, but also added to certain foods and available as an oral supplement or injection.
Vitamin B12 has many roles in your body. It supports the normal function of your nerve cells and is needed for red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis.
For most adults, the recommended daily intake (RDI) is 2.4 mcg, though it’s higher for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Vitamin B12 may benefit your body in impressive ways, such as by boosting your energy, improving your memory and helping prevent heart disease.
Here are 9 health benefits of vitamin B12, all based on science.
1. Helps With Red Blood Cell Formation and Anemia Prevention
2. May Prevent Major Birth Defects
3. May Support Bone Health and Prevent Osteoporosis
4. May Reduce Your Risk of Macular Degeneration
5. May Improve Mood and Symptoms of Depression
6. May Benefit Your Brain by Preventing the Loss of Neurons
7. May Give You an Energy Boost
8. May Improve Heart Health by Decreasing Homocysteine
9. Supports Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails
Who Is at Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
An estimated 6% of people in the US and UK aged 60 or older have vitamin B12 deficiency, while about 20% have low to normal or borderline deficient levels (29).
Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in one of two ways. Either your diet lacks adequate amounts of it or your body is unable to fully absorb it from the food you eat.
Those at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include
• Older adults
• People with gastrointestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
• Those who have had gastrointestinal surgeries, such as bariatric surgery or bowel resection surgery
• People on a strict vegan diet
• Those who take metformin for blood sugar control
• Those taking proton pump inhibitors for chronic heartburn