B12, short for cobalamin, is the name of an essential vitamin that your body needs in order to function properly and keep your organs running smoothly and efficiently.
Vitamin B12 works with folate to help you make DNA, the body’s building blocks and helps make red blood cells that carry oxygen to all the parts of your body so you can stay strong and healthy.
However, some vitamin b 12 benefits might surprise you! Here are 10 ways that this essential vitamin can improve your health and keep you feeling good from head to toe.
1. Boosts Energy
Unlike other vitamins, such as vitamin C, our bodies don’t store vitamin b 12 , so we need to get our daily dose from dietary sources or supplements.
Although most people associate energy with carbohydrates (namely sugar), most of us actually have plenty of carbs in our systems and could do well supplementing with something else.
That’s where vitamin b 12 comes in! It’s a powerhouse nutrient that helps to convert carbs and fats into usable energy.
If you struggle with a low-energy mid-afternoon slump, taking a B12 supplement can help put pep back in your step—as well as get you through those marathon Monday meetings without falling asleep at your desk.
2. Reduces Stress
When we’re stressed, our bodies produce cortisol, a hormone that can spike blood sugar and encourage fat storage.
The problem with chronically elevated cortisol is twofold: First, too much can activate your body’s fight-or-flight response, which has been shown to suppress immune function and hinder bone growth.
Second, high levels of cortisol have other negative health effects—namely a bit of extra belly fat! Fortunately, stress management techniques like journaling are proven effective at lowering your cortisol levels.
And it’s not just emotional stress that does damage: Physical factors like sleep deprivation and a sedentary lifestyle may also increase your risk for weight gain or obesity over time.
3. Boosts Immunity
Having a healthy immune system is one of the best things you can do for your body. A vitamin b 12 deficiency can put your health at risk, but there’s no need to worry.
Supplements are an easy way to help keep those pesky invaders at bay and ward off illnesses throughout cold and flu season. In fact, recent research even suggests taking vitamin b 12 daily could help you fight off cancer, too! (2)
4. Helps Sleep
Vitamin B12 helps produce melatonin, which is a hormone that plays an important role in regulating sleep cycles. Research published in 2007 showed that insomniacs who were given vitamin B supplements experienced more restful sleep than those on a placebo (22).
In addition to helping you get to sleep, vitamin B 12 can make your slumber more restorative.
According to a report published in November 2010 in Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, people with obstructive sleep apnea experienced improved overnight breathing after receiving daily doses of vitamin B 12 .
That study was small, but other research has produced similar results (23). If you’re someone who struggles with poor quality sleep, we highly recommend checking out our guide on how to fall asleep fast.
5. Good for Hair and Skin
Unlike other vitamins and nutrients, vitamin b12 is stored in our bodies for years. However, it’s still possible to become deficient with prolonged deficiencies. This nutrient is vital for strong hair growth, clear skin and maintaining youthful-looking skin.
Poor absorption of vitamin b12 may be caused by a number of factors, but common causes include low stomach acid levels, nerve damage, certain medications and even something as simple as aging can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb vitamin b 12 naturally from food sources such as meat or fish.
If you notice any changes in your hair or skin including dryness or flakiness or if you are experiencing muscle weakness call your doctor immediately as these symptoms could be caused by vitamin b 12 deficiency.
6. May Reduce Heart Disease Risk
A 2001 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin b 12 may help reduce heart disease risk.
Researchers found that people with high levels of a specific byproduct of vitamin b 12 consumption had about half as much plaque buildup inside their arteries compared to those who consumed little.
This is important because plaques can rupture, causing blood clots and potentially deadly heart attacks.
People who consume large amounts of red meat are also at greater risk for heart disease than those who eat more fruits and vegetables, according to Harvard Medical School.
May Help Prevent Cancer: Research suggests that some forms of cancer, including breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer, could be prevented by getting enough vitamin b 12 .
This is because it helps cells divide properly—and when cells don’t divide correctly they can become cancerous.
In fact, studies have shown that women whose diets are low in vitamin b 12 have twice as great a chance of developing breast cancer later in life than women whose diets are rich in it.
7. Can Lower Homocysteine Levels
Folic acid and vitamin B12 are important nutrients for lowering levels of homocysteine in your body, a factor associated with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Men over 40 need to get enough vitamin b 12 to prevent cognitive decline. A deficiency in folate can increase your risk of having a child with Down syndrome or spina bifida; expectant mothers should get between 400 micrograms and 800 micrograms of folic acid each day.
8. Helps Prevent Depression and Dementia
Not only can vitamin b 12 help with energy, but it also helps reduce depressive symptoms and can even keep you from developing dementia later on in life.
About half of all people over 60 are expected to develop Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia within their lifetime, but some doctors believe a diet high in vitamin b 12 may prevent or delay these issues.
(1) A study found that both lower levels of vitamin b 12 and folate, as well as higher levels of homocysteine are linked to cognitive impairment and increased risk for dementia.
(2) This is one more reason to include plenty of vitamin b 12 -rich foods in your diet—it just might keep you sharp throughout your later years!
9. Improves Mood
When it comes to your brain, vitamin B-12 benefits begin with neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers, allowing us to send and receive signals from our brains to other areas of our body.
When it comes to our moods, neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine perform a key role in modulating our emotional state.
Increased levels of all three can boost feelings of wellbeing and prevent mood swings while low levels are associated with depression.
10. Anti-Aging Properties
People often talk about how vitamins can prevent hair from graying and help keep your skin looking vibrant.
But what many people don’t know is that a vitamin deficiency can actually cause your hair to turn gray in just one week! Fortunately, vitamin b 12 , when consumed regularly, has been found to reduce graying by as much as 50%.
It’s also been shown to increase collagen production and improve hydration. The result? Younger looking skin.
What’s more, low levels of vitamin b 12 have also been linked to wrinkling and dryness! If you want younger-looking skin while keeping wrinkles away, try adding daily doses of vitamin b 12 .