Vitamin B12 (cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 plays a key function in the formation of red blood cells, and the proper functioning and health of your nerve tissue.

What are its health benefits?

Known as the “energy vitamin”, B12 is needed in the manufacture and maintenance of red blood cells. It stimulates appetite and promotes growth.

Vitamin B12 benefits include:

  • Helping our bodies absorb folic acid, which facilitates the release of energy.
  • It is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the body, especially affecting the DNA synthesis and regulation but also fatty acid synthesis.
  • Supplementation has been linked to more restful and refreshing sleep.

It's also known as cobalamin. 

Do you have a deficiency?

A vitamin B12 deficiency is most likely in vegans, as all food sources are animal products. Chronic alcoholism may also be a cause.

People with a B12 deficiency may eventually develop pernicious anaemia, a type of blood disorder that prevents them from absorbing B12. People with this blood disorder need to have a vitamin B12 injection or use Vitamin B12 patches, which go straight into their bloodstream, bypassing the stomach.

Symptoms and consequences of very low levels of vitamin B12 include:

  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • Muscle weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Sore tongue
  • Easy bruising or bleeding, including bleeding gums
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Anaemia
  • Memory loss
  • Dementia

Find it in these foods

Foods from animals, but not plants, naturally have vitamin B12. These include:

  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Cheese
  • Seafood
  • Liver
  • Dairy

Vegetarians who don’t eat eggs, as well as vegans, should make sure their B12 intake is adequate. There are various breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B12. Some brands of nutritional yeast and soy are also good sources. Vitamin B12 supplements are also available.

Recommended dietary allowance (RDA)

Consult with your Clicks pharmacist first regarding the right dosage of daily oral supplements to make up for a vitamin B12 deficiency.

The general guidelines for the recommended daily dosage, according to your age group, is:

  • Birth to six months: 0.5mcg
  • Six months to one year: 0.9mcg
  • Ages one to 18 years: 0.9 to 2.4mcg
  • Adults: 1.8-2.4 mcg
  • Pregnant and lactating women: 2.6-2.8mcg

Know the overdose risks

Because vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, it is difficult to overdose or build up toxicity. There are some rare side effects though. Excessive B12 supplementation may cause some numbness or tingling in the arm, hands and face.

There appears to be a link between mega-doses of vitamin B12 and certain cancers. One study showed that excess vitamin B12 intake was associated with a three-fold increase in risk of developing prostate cancer.

Ensure you discuss dietary supplementation with your Clicks pharmacist to avoid the potential for side effects and adverse interactions with medications.

Shop online at Clicks.co.za for vitamin B12

Clicks pharmacists have selected the most trustworthy supplements for you. Stock up on your monthly intake of vitamin B12 and other vitamin B-complex options here.

The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by Clicks' pharmacist Waheed Abdurahman in February 2015