There are a lot of vitamins and minerals out there that help support our growth and bodily functions. You've probably heard of more common nutrients, such as vitamin C, which can be found in many citrus fruits, and vitamin D, which you can absorb from the sun. But have you heard of vitamin B12?
There are a total of eight B vitamins. Many of them help release energy and transport nutrients throughout the body. Vitamin B12, in particular, has gained attention as a potential treatment to reduce symptoms of anxiety. But research results have yielded mixed results. Clinical trials have suggested that B vitamins may have an impact on mental health and specifically on anxiety, but the relationship is complex.
What Is Vitamin B12?
Vitamins are organic nutrients that are important for a growth and health maintenance. The human body does not make vitamins. Instead, they are absorbed from the food that we eat.
B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in foods such as dairy and meat. It contains the mineral cobalt and plays an important role in the development and function of the body's central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is made up of the brain and spinal cord and is responsible for sending signals from the brain to the rest of the body. The CNS helps people move, breathe, and even think.
Vitamin B12 also helps make your body's DNA, which carries all of your genetic information and is what makes you you. In addition, it supports the health of both your nerve cells and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 also helps metabolize carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the body, which gives you energy throughout the day.
Does Vitamin B12 Help with Anxiety?
According to one systematic review from the journal Nutrients, vitamin B12 has not been found to reduce symptoms of anxiety. The review analyzed the results of 12 different studies that measured the health changes in participants after being given vitamin B12 supplements for a period of at least four weeks. These studies included participants that experienced anxiety symptoms, as well as those that did not.
Although vitamin B12 did not have an effect on anxiety according to the review, there were some positive effects of taking the supplement. Results show that vitamin B12 was able to boost the mood of participants in the studies, and also showed positive benefits on feelings of stress. The review also noted that participants experienced a decrease in symptoms of depression, although the results were not strong enough to be deemed statistically significant.
Another systematic review published in 2022 in Nutritional Neuroscience found that B vitamins may be helpful in the treatment of anxiety when combined with vitamin D and other compounds. But a patient's clinical status and nutritional biomarkers also played a role in whether or not the treatment was successful. So the study authors noted that improvements in patients couldn't be attributed directly to the vitamins.
Further studies have been conducted on vitamin B12 and depression. For instance, research finds that vitamin B12 can actually delay the onset of depression, as well as improve the effects of anti-depressants.
Other Health Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 has been found to help prevent the development of a blood condition known as megaloblastic anemia. This is an autoimmune disorder that forms as a result of inadequate absorption of vitamin B12. It causes people to feel constantly fatigued, weak, and pale in color. If gone untreated, this condition can lead to neurological complications or even death.
Some studies have been conducted surrounding vitamin B12 and the reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. Research has found that vitamin B12 can reduce a person's homocysteine level, which is an amino acid typically found at elevated levels in people with cardiovascular disease. However, the findings in this area are inconclusive and researchers call for further studies to be done.
Vitamin B12 supplements are often promoted as ways for people to obtain more energy and endurance throughout the day. Some even claim that they can boost athletic performance. However, research has found that these benefits will only be experienced by people that do not already get enough vitamin B12 in their diet. So, if you're already getting your daily value of vitamin B12, taking a vitamin supplement will not give you any additional benefits.
Vitamin B12 Requirements And Sources
In general, nutrition experts advise that we get nutrients from food rather than from supplements. So it is important to know where you can find vitamin B12 so that you can get the recommended amount.
Vitamin B12 Requirements
The daily value (DV) for vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) for adults and teens between the ages of 14-18 according to the NIH. However, it varies between age groups. For example, it is recommended that women who are pregnant get 2.6 mcg and that children ages 9-13 get 1.8 mcg.
Talk to your healthcare provider to learn more about your B12 intake and if you are absorbing enough vitamin nutrients in your diet. Some groups are at a higher risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, such as those that do not consume animal products (vegetarians, vegans), older adults, people with gastrointestinal disorders, and those with pernicious anemia. In addition, some vitamin B12 supplements can interfere with medication, so ask your healthcare provider about the safety of B12 supplements before you start taking them.
Foods That Contain Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is naturally present in a variety of different foods, particularly in animal products. Plant foods have no vitamin B12. For example, kidney beans, spinach, and bananas don't contain vitamin B12. However, some foods are fortified with the vitamin, which means that it has been added to them in order to increase their health benefits. Some foods that contain vitamin B12 include:
- Dairy: Milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs
- Meat and fish: Ground beef, poultry, turkey, clams, tuna, and salmon
- Others: breakfast cereal, tempeh, and nutritional yeast
Vitamin B12 can also be taken in the form of supplements and multivitamins. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements, research has not found one form of vitamin B12 supplement to be more beneficial than others.
Although vitamin B12, alone, has not been proven to reduce symptoms of anxiety, it has been shown to have other health effects. Especially if you experience symptoms of depression or feel like you have low energy as a result of your B12 intake. Talk to your healthcare provider and work together to make a plan that's right for you.