When you are feeling sluggish and slow, what do you do? Many people turn to caffeine in the form of teas, coffees, and energy drinks. These methods may provide temporary relief, but if you feel tired because of a B12 deficiency, caffeine won't solve the underlying concern. Lack of energy due to a B12 deficiency is more common than you think. Nearly 40 percent of Americans are deficient in vitamin B12.
Since this B vitamin plays a part in the production of red blood cells, nerve sheaths, and DNA, you’ll benefit from more than just improved energy levels. Many people have returned their B12 levels to normal after being deficient for years. They report feeling more energized and mentally sharp. If you’ve ever considered taking a B12 supplement to improve your thinking or wellness, then read on.
What Is Vitamin B12?
B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin and is one of the eight B vitamins. While each of these B vitamins influences your health in unique ways, B12 remains one of the most well-known vitamins. Your body can’t produce B12 on its own, so you have to get it from food or supplements.
Are You at Risk for a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Consuming enough B12 is easy. Plenty of supplements and foods will provide you with the right daily requirements, but finding out whether or not your body is absorbing the B12 is a bit more complicated. Carefully calculating your B12 intake on a daily basis is a great start, but it’s difficult to account for the absorption rate.
The most abundant source of B12 in food is meat and other animal products, which is why vegans have a higher risk of developing a B12 deficiency. However, many grains, like breakfast cereals, are now fortified with B12, and vegan B12 supplements also provide active forms of the vitamin that can be readily used by your cells once absorbed from the digestive tract.
Ultimately, the only sure way to know if you are deficient in B12 is by having a trusted healthcare provider check your B12 levels. However, there are some common warning signs of B12 deficiency. People who are deficient in B12 can develop yellow skin, experience muddled thinking, and have a sluggish metabolism.
How B12 Supports Energy
The most common side effect of a B12 deficiency is a persistent lack of energy. Not having the energy to do the things you want can seriously affect your mental and physical well-being, and, compounded over time, may lead to more serious health concerns. B12 works at a cellular level to address the cause of energy loss and will aid your body in regulating long-lasting, healthy energy levels.
There are several ways B12 supports how energetic you feel. B12 aids in the formation of the hemoglobin inside red blood cells. These hemoglobin molecules transport oxygen from your lungs to all of the cells in your body, including your muscles, brain, and lungs. Without enough B12, hemoglobin production ramps down and everything in your body struggles to run with less available oxygen, which accounts for many of those feelings of fatigue and tiredness. In some cases, a lack of B12 can even contribute to pernicious and macrocytic anemia, where the body is not able to make enough red blood cells or your red blood cells have a low hemoglobin concentration. Even before anemia, lack of B12 impairs muscle capacity and exercise performance.
B-12 also regulates energy by helping metabolize food. When you eat food, your body must break it down into usable energy forms. B12 plays a vital role in metabolizing the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates you consume into energy that your body can then use. Without the right amount of B12, some of these fats and proteins may go unused and will only pass through your system.
How B12 Supports Metabolism
B-12 is not unique in the role it plays in healthy metabolism. In fact, all vitamins and minerals are involved, at some point, in metabolic reactions. Some are required as cofactors for enzymes. B12 is a coenzyme, or a key, for an enzyme that leads to the production of succinyl-CoA, one of the steps of the Krebs cycle. Without adequate B12, you are unable to harvest usable energy from the series of reactions that break sugar down.
A consequence of not being able to break down glucose is high blood sugar, which comes with its own health concerns. B12 is also involved in the metabolism of fats (fatty acids) and proteins. While B12 won’t boost metabolism for people with normal B12 levels, supplementation can be immensely beneficial for those that are deficient.[7, 8, 9]
How to Get Your Energy & Metabolism Back to Normal
If you contend with low energy or a slow metabolism because of a B12 deficiency, there is hope. You simply need to take in more vitamin B12. Speak with your healthcare provider to rule out harmful organism overgrowth, poor digestion, or other issues that may hinder B12 absorption. Harmful overgrowth in the gut microbiota can impede B12 absorption by separating B12 from the carrier molecule that protects it from the harsh environment of your digestive system.
To restore balance to your gut and encourage better B12 absorption, consider a colon cleanse and gut reset. A probiotic supplement is another great option for restoring your gut to a healthier environment. Probiotics support the friendly organisms that live inside your digestive system and help you absorb nutrients like B12. Probiotics are especially important for older adults who often lack essential acids that are required to absorb B12.[9, 10]
Global Healing offers the highest quality vegan-sourced B12 supplement available. Our Vitamin B12 is a blend of methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, and hydroxocobalamin
- Allen, L.H. "How common is vitamin B-12 deficiency?" Am J Clin Nutr. (2009).
- "Office of Dietary Supplements - Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B-12." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 02 May 2017.
- Antony, A.C. "Vegetarianism and vitamin B-12 (cobalamin) deficiency." Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;78(1):3-6.
- Skerrett, Patrick J. "Vitamin B-12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful." Harvard Health Blog. N.p., 18 Oct. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.
- Lukaski, Henry C. "Vitamin and mineral status: effects on physical performance." Nutrition, Volume 20, Issue 7. (2004): 632-644.
- Gropper, Sareen Annora Stepnick, Jack L. Smith, and Timothy P. Carr. "Advanced nutrition and human metabolism." Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2016. Print.
- Froese, D. Sean, and Roy A. Gravel. "Genetic Disorders of Vitamin B-12 Metabolism: Eight Complementation Groups – Eight Genes." Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine 12 (2010).
- Chow, Bacon F., and Howard H. Stone. "The Relationship Of Vitamin B12 To Carbohydrate Metabolism And Diabetes Mellitus." The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 5.4 n. pag. Web. 5 May 2017.
- Pelley, John W., Edward F. Goljan, and John W. Pelley. "Biochemistry." 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby/Elsevier, 2011.
- Albert M.J., Mathan V.I., Baker S.J. "Vitamin B-12 synthesis by human small intestinal bacteria." Nature. (1980): 781-782.
- Bender, A. Douglas. "Effect Of Age On Intestinal Absorption: Implications For Drug Absorption In The Elderly." Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 16.12 (1968): 1331-339. Web.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.