Fact or Fiction: Vitamin B12 Boosts Energy

Answer: Not fact, nor fiction. It all depends on the individual.

Not specific to B12, but the cluster of eight essential B vitamins (B1: thiamin, B2: riboflavin, B3: niacin, B5: pantothenic acid, B6, B7: biotin, B9: folate, and B12) are often advertised as having the ability to boost energy levels.

These vitamins play an important role in converting food into the energy essential for your body, but they don't give you energy themselves. Much of your energy comes from proper nutrition, a healthy sleep schedule, and staying active.

It's also important to address that B vitamins, including B12, are not stimulants and don't offer a quick boost in energy as caffeine does. Taking a supplement may improve your energy level, but only if you're deficient in this vitamin. There is no evidence of benefit if people without a deficiency take extra B vitamins4.

What is Vitamin B-12?

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a key vitamin to maintain good health. It's one of the essential B vitamins that help your body convert the food you eat into glucose. Glucose is a type of sugar that your body uses for energy.

In addition to aiding in the digestion system, vitamin B12 also produces red blood cells, nerves, DNA, regenerates bone marrow, the lining of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts, amongst other functions.

Did you know? Your body can store several years' worth of vitamin B-12. This means that having a deficiency is rare.1

How much Vitamin B-12 should you be getting:

The recommended amount of vitamin B-12 microgram per day varies by age and life stage5:

  • Birth to 6 months: 0.4 mcg
  • 7–12 months: 0.5 mcg
  • 1–3 years: 0.9 mcg
  • 4–8 years: 1.2 mcg
  • 9–13 years: 1.8 mcg
  • 14–18 years: 2.4 mcg
  • Adults: 2.4 mcg
  • Pregnancy: 2.6 mcg
  • Breastfeeding: 2.8 mcg

Vitamin B-12 deficiency symptoms:

Your body can't make vitamin B12, so you have to either get it from the foods you eat or the supplements you take2.

If you follow a diet limiting animal-based foods (such as vegetarian and vegan diets), it's important to know that plant-based foods don't naturally contain vitamin B12.1. Additionally, the elderly are commonly prone to having B12 deficiencies if they have a condition that affects the proper absorption of nutrients in their body3.

A vitamin B12 deficiency doesn't happen overnight. It takes a while for symptoms to appear, but they will intensify over time if left untreated. Given the number of different symptoms, a vitamin B12 deficiency may be overlooked or confused as something else.2

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms may include2:

  • Anemia
  • Unusual sensations, numbness, or tingling in the extremities
  • Difficulty walking and balancing
  • A swollen and inflamed tongue
  • Difficulty thinking and reasoning, or memory loss
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue

What foods contain Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is only naturally found in foods of animal origin3:

  • Liver
  • Beef
  • Lamb
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

If you're not following a restrictive diet, you should be able to get all the vitamin B12 your body needs by eating varied and consciously.

Non-animal-based foods don't naturally contain vitamin B-12, but you can add fortified foods into your diet. Foods such as:

  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Fortified grains
  • Fortified non-dairy milk
  • Fortified plant-based 'meat' alternatives
  • Fortified nutritional yeast
  • Fortified energy bars

You can also get the recommended amount of vitamin B12 through supplements.


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