What are Vitamin B12 Supplements?

Mirissa Armstrong

Vitamin B12 supplements are mainly taken by individuals who have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, but may also be used for other reasons. These extra vitamins are available in pill, transdermal patch, or liquid form, and may also be received by injection and or by means of a nasal spray. Vitamin B12 supplements may include other vitamins with which they collaborate, such as folic acid. Some also contain additives, fillers, sugars, and artificial coloring, flavoring, and other substances. Vitamin B12 supplements are added to some processed foods, such as breads and cereals.

Vitamin B12 supplementation might help treat insomnia.
Vitamin B12 supplementation might help treat insomnia.

While vitamin B12 deficiencies occur rarely in most individuals, they can be harmful. Symptoms of B12 deficiency may include memory loss, lack of sensation, headaches, and breathing difficulties. It is widely believed that taking vitamin B12 supplements can lessen or relieve these symptoms.

Vitamin B12 supplements are available in pill form.
Vitamin B12 supplements are available in pill form.

Vitamin B12 deficiencies are most common among the elderly. Some experts suggests up to 20 percent of people over the age of 60 may suffer from problems related to these deficiencies. Experts also suggest that taking vitamin B12 supplements from middle age on can prevent problems. Research studies have revealed that many Alzheimer's patients have low levels of vitamin B12.

Those with irritable bowel syndrome may be helped by vitamin B12.
Those with irritable bowel syndrome may be helped by vitamin B12.

Vegetarians are at risk of developing a deficiency of this vitamin. The main sources of B12 are beef, fish, eggs, and dairy products. Vegetarians are often urged to take vitamin B12 supplements or eat B12-fortified foods to prevent diseases and problems related to lack of this vitamin. Others, including those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, allergies, anxiety, and insomnia, may find vitamin B12 supplements helpful.

Most commonly, vitamin B12 supplements are taken in pill or capsule form, but these are not always considered the most effective because they contain relatively low amounts of the vitamin. Many people, including those who smoke, may also have problems absorbing vitamins. For that reason, vitamin B12 supplements in the transdermal patch, nasal spray, injection, or liquid form are often preferred because they contain more concentrated doses and deliver the vitamin into the blood stream quickly. There is some debate over which form of vitamin B12 supplement is most effective.

While side effects of vitamin B12 are rare, they do occur. Whether they are caused by higher doses of the vitamin or by other constitutes of the supplements is unknown. Those who begin taking vitamin B12 supplements should discuss the use of alcohol, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and other dietary supplements with a doctor or pharmacist as B12 can interact with some of these.

Vitamin B12 supplements may be taken to help relieve headaches.
Vitamin B12 supplements may be taken to help relieve headaches.

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Discussion Comments


@burcinc-- The only side effect I experience with vitamin B12 supplements is increased appetite. But it's temporary and it goes away by the next day. If I took it every day though, I'm sure I would be hungry all the time.

Also, I know that if you take too much vitamin B12, you can get diarrhea. I think vitamin B12 benefits outweigh the side effects though.


@burcinc-- The only way to know is to get tested for it. A blood test will show if you have a deficiency.

I've heard that most Americans don't get enough vitamin B12 through food. Vegans, vegetarians, diabetics and people suffering from depression and anxiety are at an increased risk of a deficiency. Apparently, some medications also affect the absorption of vitamins and people on those medications are at risk too. If you belong to one of these categories, you should probably take a supplement a few times a week.

I have diabetes and I take a vitamin B complex supplement that has vitamin B12. My doctor told me to take it because my diabetes medication prevents me from absorbing enough vitamin B12 from food.


How do I know if I have a vitamin B12 deficiency? Should I take a supplement just to make sure? Does vitamin B12 have side effects?

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