Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that your body needs but cannot produce.
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 (1).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 some health benefits of vitamin B12, all based on science
Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in helping your body produce red blood cells.
Low vitamin B12 levels cause a reduction in red blood cell formation and prevent them from developing properly. Healthy red blood cells are small and round, whereas they become larger and typically oval in cases of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Due to this larger and irregular shape, the red blood cells are unable to move from the bone marrow into the bloodstream at an appropriate rate, causing megaloblastic anemia. When you’re anemic, your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to your vital organs. This can cause symptoms like fatigue and weakness.
vitamin B12 levels are crucial to a healthy pregnancy.
Studies show that a fetus’s brain and nervous system require sufficient B12 levels from the mother to develop properly.
Vitamin B12 deficiency in the beginning stages of pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects, such as neural tube defects. Furthermore, maternal vitamin B12 deficiency may contribute to premature birth or miscarriage
One study found that women with vitamin B12 levels lower than 250 mg/dL were three times more likely to give birth to a child with birth defects, compared to those with adequate levels
May Support Bone Health and Prevent Osteoporosis
Maintaining adequate vitamin B12 levels may support your bone health.
One study in more than 2,500 adults showed that people with a vitamin B12 deficiency also had lower than normal bone mineral density (5Trusted Source). Bones with decreased mineral density can become delicate and fragile over time, leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis. Other studies have also shown a link between low vitamin B12 levels and poor bone health and osteoporosis, especially in women.
May Improve Mood and Symptoms of Depression
Vitamin B12 may improve your mood.
The effect of vitamin B12 on mood is not yet fully understood. However, this vitamin plays a vital role in synthesizing and metabolizing serotonin, a chemical responsible for regulating mood.Therefore, vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to decreased serotonin production, which may cause a depressed mood.
Studies support the use of vitamin B12 supplements for improving symptoms of depression in people deficient in this vitamin.
One study in people with depression and low vitamin B12 levels found that those who received both antidepressants and vitamin B12 were more likely to show improved depressive symptoms, compared to those treated with antidepressants alone.Another study discovered that vitamin B12 deficiency was associated with twice the risk of severe depression.
May Give You an Energy Boost
Vitamin B12 supplements have long been touted as the go-to product for a surge of energy.
All B vitamins play an important role in your body’s energy production, though they don’t necessarily provide energy themselves.
Currently, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that vitamin B12 supplements can boost energy in those with sufficient levels of this vitamin (18Trusted Source). On the other hand, if you’re significantly deficient in vitamin B12, taking a supplement or increasing your intake will likely improve your energy level. In fact, one of the most common early signs of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue or lack of energy.
Supports Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails
Given vitamin B12’s role in cell production, adequate levels of this vitamin are needed to promote healthy hair, skin and nails. In fact, low vitamin B12 levels can cause various dermatologic symptoms, including hyperpigmentation, nail discoloration, hair changes, vitiligo (the loss of skin colour in patches) and angular stomatitis (inflamed and cracked mouth corners)
Supplementing with vitamin B12 has been shown to improve dermatologic symptoms in people with B12 deficiency. However, if you’re well-nourished and not deficient in this vitamin, taking a supplement is unlikely to improve your skin, nail strength or hair health.