Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that your body needs but cannot produce. It is found naturally in clams, beef and fish, milk and other dairy products, and animal organ meats such as liver and kidneys. It is 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.
Here are some health benefits of vitamin B12.
Helps With Red Blood Cell Formation and Anemia Prevention – 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 prevents them from developing properly (1). Healthy red blood cells are small circular discs, 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 (2).
May Prevent Major Birth Defects – Adequate vitamin B12 levels are crucial to a healthy pregnancy. 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 (3).
May Support Bone Health and Prevent Osteoporosis – Maintaining adequate vitamin B12 levels may support your bone health. Bones with decreased mineral density can become delicate and fragile over time, leading to an increased risk of osteoporosis.
May Reduce Your Risk of Macular Degeneration – Macular degeneration is an eye disease that mainly affects your central vision. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B12 may help prevent the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Elevated homocysteine levels have been associated with an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (4).
May Benefit Your Brain by Preventing the Loss of Neurons – Vitamin B12 deficiency has been associated with memory loss, especially in older adults. The vitamin may play a role in preventing brain atrophy, which is the loss of neurons in the brain and often associated with memory loss or dementia (5).
May Give You an Energy Boost – Vitamin B12 supplements have long been seen 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 (6).
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 and cracked mouth corners (7). Supplementing with vitamin B12 has been shown to improve dermatologic symptoms in people with B12 deficiency (8).