Brains, Multitasker 452

Vitamin B12

4 min read

Simon Körösi

Reviewed by: Joanna Elmes

Vitamin B12, also referred to as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an indispensable role in an array of bodily functions. It is one of the eight B-vitamins present in our body. Its primary functions include the formation of red blood cells and the maintenance of a healthy nervous system.

Unlike some nutrients, Vitamin B12 isn't naturally produced by the human body. Instead, it must be derived from dietary sources or supplements. The richest sources of Vitamin B12 are predominantly animal-based foods such as meat, fish, dairy products, and eggs.

Deficiency in Vitamin B12 is relatively common, particularly amongst older adults and individuals who follow vegetarian or vegan diets and consequently do not consume adequate amounts of Vitamin B12 from their diet.

B12 deficiency can be effectively remedied with supplements. Incorporating this essential vitamin into one's dietary regime has numerous benefits. Indeed, by understanding and addressing our nutritional needs, we empower ourselves to make choices that directly influence our well-being. In the quest for optimal health, Vitamin B12 is an invaluable ally.

1. Reducing Homocysteine Levels


B12 plays a pivotal role in the metabolism of homocysteine, an amino acid naturally produced by the body. Ordinarily, homocysteine exists in our bodies in low concentrations, with B12 assisting in its breakdown, transforming it into other compounds essential for our bodily functions. If the levels of B12 in your system are insufficient, homocysteine begins to accumulate in your blood.

Raised homocysteine levels in the blood are associated with an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease, inclusive of heart disease and stroke. A review in 2022 of eight studies discovered that supplementation with B12, B6, and/or folic acid resulted in an average reduction of homocysteine levels by 31.9% in individuals with mild cognitive impairment.

2. May Benefit Individuals with Depression


B12 has a part to play in the synthesis and regulation of neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which are central to mood regulation. A deficiency in vitamin B12 may impede the functioning of these neurotransmitters, potentially exacerbating depressive symptoms.

As previously mentioned, B12 is integral to maintaining homocysteine levels, which is vital for healthy brain function. Research indicates that low B12 levels can heighten the risk of developing depression.

A study conducted in 2021 involving older adults found that having low or deficient levels of B12 increased the risk of developing depression by 51% over a span of four years.

Supplementing with B12 could help prevent the onset of depression and improve symptoms in individuals with depression. A review in 2023 concluded that supplementing with B12 may be an effective strategy for reducing depressive symptoms and improving the effectiveness of antidepressant medications.

3. Supports Brain Health


Vitamin B12 is essential for optimal brain function, playing a pivotal role in several neurological processes. Low levels of B12 can adversely affect brain health by increasing homocysteine, which promotes inflammation in nerve cells and oxidative stress. Supplementation with vitamin B12 may assist in protecting against oxidative stress-related cellular damage, which has been associated with numerous chronic diseases, such as cognitive decline.

Vitamin B12 might also play a role in preventing brain atrophy — the loss of neurons in the brain commonly linked to memory loss or dementia.
One study involving individuals with early-stage dementia demonstrated that a combination of vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acid supplements slowed mental decline. Another study discovered that even vitamin B12 levels at the lower end of the normal range can contribute to poor memory performance.