Vitamins are essential in keeping your body healthy and functioning well.
Vitamin B12 is one of the vitamins belonging to what is famously known as the B complex, which consists of eight vitamins that are extremely important for our well-being.
Among the many benefits that vitamin B12 provides is that it gives you energy.
However, how true is this? Can you substitute calories with vitamin B12? What is the link between vitamin B12 and energy?
Let’s take a look at how this link comes about. And together, let’s find out how truly essential vitamin B12 is to give you energy.
Does vitamin B12 give you energy?
It is more than a simple yes or no to this question. Nonetheless, there is a role that vitamin B12 plays in the body’s metabolic process of getting energy, just as other vitamins. While this may not be as direct as substituting calories with vitamin B12, its vital role cannot be underestimated.
Typically, the body gets its energy from foods containing calories such as:
- Carbohydrates, e.g., starches and grains
- Proteins, e.g., red meat and eggs
- Fats, e.g., grease and fatty foods
These foods contain energy but provide it as glucose, a simple sugar. This glucose, to be helpful, then has to be converted to ATP, which is the form of energy that the body utilizes.
Getting to the ATP from glucose requires multiple processes inside the body involving many intermediates and enzymes.
This is where vitamin B12 becomes useful, acting as a coenzyme in the process. Vitamin B12 thus helps the cells metabolize glucose into forming ATP that is then used for energy by the body.
So, the big question is, does vitamin B12 give you energy?
Simply put, vitamin B12 helps you extract energy from the food that has the energy. Therefore, getting vitamin B12 in the right amounts will help your body synthesize enough energy efficiently to help you maintain body processes and do daily work with ease.
The other way vitamin B12 is linked to energy production is through the red blood cells. Metabolic processes require oxygen to produce the maximum amount of ATP. This oxygen is carried to the cells by red blood cells.
Without this, metabolism takes a different pathway that leads to lactic acid production. Lactic acid is then responsible for the easy-fatigability when doing tasks throughout the day.
How, then, is vitamin B12 linked to fatigue? Vitamin B12 is essential in producing red cells, and if deficient, megaloblastic anemia arises, impairing the red cells’ oxygen-carrying capacity.
Other than energy, the vitamin B12 recommended daily amount can also help you avoid vitamin B12 deficiency and symptoms such as paresthesia and neural tube defects.
Benefits of vitamin B12
Apart from the role that vitamin B12 plays in energy production, it has other benefits ranging from red cell production to cognitive functions that make it even more essential.
The benefits of vitamin b12 include:
Red cell production
Vitamin B12 converts folate to its useful form (methyl- THF). Folate is an important nutrient in DNA metabolism and, thus, the production of red blood cells.
Without its conversion to a useful form, it is trapped and, therefore, can’t be utilized. As such, this results in megaloblastic anemia clinically presenting as fatigue as the oxygen-carrying capacity of RBCs is reduced. Therefore, vitamin B12 is important in red cell synthesis.
Vitamin B12 is needed to convert methionine to form myelin for the nerves. Without it, this process is impaired, causing not only deficiency of the intermediate used for myelin synthesis but also accumulation of neurotoxic homocysteine.
Low myelin production will result in slow nerve conduction and other neurologic symptoms that enough vitamin B12 could have decreased.
The liver utilizes vitamin B12 to turn toxins into harmless products, which, if accumulated, may be fatal.
For all these reasons, we find that vitamin B12 is an essential part of our body metabolism, without which we may experience deficiency symptoms such as:
- Unexplained fatigue
- Cognitive impairment
- Muscle cramps and weakness
Therefore, you must boost vitamin B12 if you’re at risk of deficiency.
How much vitamin B12 do you need?
According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended dietary allowance for those 14 years of age and above is 2.4 micrograms. This can easily be achieved through dietary intake, and most of the United States population has no difficulty attaining it.
However, two groups of the population are at risk of experiencing a deficiency of vitamin B12 and should therefore consider taking supplements.
- 50 years and above: these people experience malabsorption of the vitamin. This is because, as you age, the stomach acid reduces, making it difficult to absorb vitamin B12. Secondly, protein malabsorption also affects the intake of protein metabolism. For this reason, healthcare professionals recommend taking vitamin B12 supplements of up to 1000 micrograms.
- Vegans or vegetarians: dietary vitamin B12 is prominently found in animal products such as red meat, eggs, poultry, and fish. This means that vegans miss out on this essential vitamin. For this reason, you are advised to supplement this vitamin if you are vegan.
How to boost your vitamin B12 levels
A deficiency of vitamin B12 is detrimental, considering how essential the vitamin is. Therefore, you must get the supplements when deficiency is confirmed or if you belong to the high-risk groups. Supplementation leads to a reversal of the anemia and, if started early, the neurologic symptoms.
Usually, in the US, the treatment involves receiving a daily vitamin B12 injection of 1mg per day followed by a weekly injection for a month, then a monthly injection after that.
Alternatively, you could also use oral supplements. They are considered easy to administer and less costly yet show the same efficacy as the intramuscular injection.
Many ask whether it is safe to take the supplements in large doses. The answer to this is relatively straightforward.
Vitamin B12 is safe even in large doses as it is water soluble and thus easily excreted, avoiding toxicity.
Actually, the more you take, the greater the absorption. It is, therefore, common to get that despite 2.4 micrograms being the requirement, daily supplementation is up to 1000 micrograms.
With this in mind, you should get the supplements upon prescription or for prevention as advised by a physician because vitamin B12 shots are good for your health.
Naturally, vitamin B12 isn’t available in plant products. However, it is abundant in most animal products, including liver, red meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. You can also find it in some fortified breakfast cereals, soy milk, and vegetables.
Overall, it comes down to the fact that vitamin B12 is essential. Everyone needs it not only for energy but also for red cell production and neurological development.
Therefore, sufficient amounts of the vitamin are consumed from foods. However, supplementation is ideal for high-risk groups such as those above 50 years of age, vegans, and strict vegetarians.