Vitamin B12 supplements can be taken to prevent or treat vitamin B12 deficiency.
They’re used by people who have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12, as well as those who don’t get enough vitamin B12 from food sources (such as vegetarians and vegans). Vitamin B12 levels are also associated with memory and concentration in the elderly.
Vitamin B12 is available as a supplement and a sublingual supplement.
A sublingual is essentially a tablet which melts or dissolves in your mouth. Instead of being swallowed, vitamin B12 sublingual supplements are placed underneath your tongue. They’re absorbed via your mouth’s mucosal membrane which results in the vitamin B12 directly entering your bloodstream.
Orally administered vitamin B12 supplements need to go through the digestive process, and this can reduce the amount of B12 your body absorbs. It’s for this reason that people who have gastrointestinal issues which decrease vitamin B12 absorption can benefit from sublingual supplements.
Research has indicated that the sublingual form of vitamin B12 is just as effective at correcting vitamin B12 deficiency as the orally administered supplement form.
Vitamin B12 health benefits
Vitamin B12 supplements are thought to provide the following health benefits:
- Prevents vitamin B12 deficiency
- Treats vitamin B12 deficiency
- Improves memory and concentration in the elderly
Additionally, sublingual supplements can help to:
- Improve B12 absorption for those with gastrointestinal issues
Types of vitamin B12 supplements
It’s important to get enough of the right kind of vitamin B12 when you´re choosing a supplement. Vitamin B12 is a name for a class of compounds known as cobalamins. There are three of these compounds available as a supplement, including
The most effective form is thought to be methylcobalamin. This is the form found in food and has much higher bioavailability than the other forms.
How does a vitamin B12 supplement prevent and treat vitamin B12 deficiency?
Being vitamin B12 deficient basically means the levels of vitamin B12 in your blood are too low. Taking a vitamin B12 supplement on a regular basis can help to prevent and treat vitamin B12 deficiency.
Symptoms related to vitamin B12 deficiency can include:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Numbness/tingling of hands and feet
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Poor memory
- Soreness of the mouth/tongue
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to anaemia, a disorder characterised by low red blood cell count. Required for the formation of red blood cells, as well as nerve function and brain health, vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin.
Because vitamin B12 deficiency can’t be made by the body, you need to consume enough food or supplements to prevent possible deficiency. Those who are at risk of deficiency include vegetarians and vegans, who don’t consume enough food products to meet their daily requirements, as well as those who have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 for various reasons.
Experts agree that mild vitamin B12 deficiency can be easily corrected with regular supplementation. Vitamin B12 supplements can help to:
- Treat vitamin B12 deficiency
- Prevent vitamin B12 deficiency
How vitamin B12 sublingual supplements and digestive concerns
The amount of vitamin B12 you absorb is directly related to the health of your digestive system. The protein in your stomach which helps your body to absorb vitamin B12 is known as the intrinsic factor.
Specifically, if you don’t make enough intrinsic factor, or if you have a condition that destroys the intrinsic factor, you could be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. That’s why people who have gastrointestinal conditions often have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12.
Common weight loss surgeries can also interfere with your body’s ability to extract vitamin B12 from food. In these cases, a vitamin B12 sublingual supplement can be helpful because it is absorbed under the tongue instead of via the stomach and intestines.
Vitamin B12 sublingual supplements can help to:
- Improve vitamin B12 absorption in people who have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 in their digestive systems
- Improve vitamin B12 absorption in people who have had weight loss surgery
Vitamin B12 helps to improve memory and concentration
Memory loss and difficulty concentrating are common signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency in older adults. Previous research has suggested a link between vitamin B12 levels and cognitive performance.
Some studies have also indicated that those who have low levels of vitamin B12 could be more susceptible to age-related memory decline as well as brain shrinkage. As you age, your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food sources decreases. That’s one of the reasons why B12 deficiency is quite common in older people.
As many as one in five adults are thought to be deficient in vitamin B12, and experts agree that adults over 50 should proactively maintain their vitamin B12 levels. Vitamin B12 supplements can help to:
- Improve memory and concentration in older adults
Who can benefit from taking a vitamin B12 sublingual?
Vitamin B12 supplements may be beneficial for you if you are:
- Deficient in vitamin B12
- Someone with gastrointestinal problems
- Someone who has had weight loss or gastrointestinal surgery
- Over 50
Do vitamin B12 supplements have any side effects?
There are no serious side effects or allergic reactions associated with vitamin B12 supplements. As vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin, your body will excrete excess amounts of B12 in the urine. People with severe anaemia who take vitamin B12 may experience low potassium levels.
Vitamin B12 supplement medicine interactions
Vitamin B12 supplements may interact with other medications you may be taking. The amount of vitamin B12 absorbed can be decreased by vitamin C. If you’re taking a vitamin B12 supplement, health professionals generally recommend that you wait one hour before taking vitamin C in large doses.
Vitamin B12 sublingual supplement contraindications and cautions
It’s important to be aware of the following contraindications and cautions if you’re considering a vitamin B12 supplement:
- Pregnancy and while breast-feeding - vitamin B12 supplements are considered safe to use, yet you should take no more than 2.8 mcg daily.
- In certain cases, treating vitamin B deficiency may unmask symptoms of polycythemia vera (high numbers of red blood cells).
- Vitamin B12 should be avoided if you have Leber’s disease, which is an eye disease that’s hereditary.
If you are unsure whether a vitamin B12 supplement is right for you, always consult your healthcare professional.
How much vitamin B12 do you need?
Because different brands vary in their dosing guidelines, always read the product label to determine the optimal dosage for you. If you have any questions or concerns, speak to your healthcare professional before you start taking vitamin B12 supplements.
Foods highest in vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is found in many animal foods, such as fish, meat, poultry and eggs. Other sources of B12 include fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soy products, cheese and skim milk. Chat to your healthcare professional if you want to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin B12 in your daily diet - particularly if you’re vegetarian or vegan.
Why take a vitamin B12 supplement?
If you’re prone to vitamin B12 deficiency, or are experiencing several of the common signs and symptoms associated with deficiency, you may benefit from taking a vitamin B12 supplement. Other reasons to take a vitamin B12 supplement include:
- Increase the amount of vitamin B12 your body absorbs if you have difficulty absorbing B12 in the digestive system
- Improve memory and concentration in the elderly
Other names of vitamin B12
b-12, b12, b complex vitamin, bedumil, cobalamin, cobalamine, cobamin, cobamine, complexe vitaminique b, cyanocobalamin, cyanocobalamine, cyanocobalaminum, cycobemin, hydroxocobalamin, hydroxocobalamine, hydroxocobalaminum, hydroxocobemine, hydroxocobémine, idrossocobalamina, methylcobalamin, méthylcobalamine, vitadurin, vitadurine, vitamina b12, vitamine b12.
The following research has been conducted into Vitamin B12 supplements:
Carrozzo M. Vitamin B12 for the treatment of recurrent aphthous stomatitis. Evid Based Dent. 2009;10(4):114-5. doi: 10.1038/sj.ebd.6400688. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20023621
Delpre G, Stark P, Niv Y. Sublingual therapy for cobalamin deficiency as an alternative to oral and parenteral cobalamin supplementation. Lancet. 1999 Aug 28;354(9180):740-1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10475189
Kotilea K, Quennery S, Decroës V, Hermans DA. Successful sublingual cobalamin treatment in a child with short-bowel syndrome. J Pediatr Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Jan;19(1):60-3. doi: 10.5863/1551-6776-19.1.60. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24782694
Majumder S, Soriano J, Louie Cruz A, Dasanu CA. Vitamin B12 deficiency in patients undergoing bariatric surgery: preventive strategies and key recommendations. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2013 Nov-Dec;9(6):1013-9. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2013.04.017. Epub 2013 May 24. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24091055
Sharabi A1, Cohen E, Sulkes J, Garty M. Replacement therapy for vitamin B12 deficiency: comparison between the sublingual and oral route. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2003 Dec;56(6):635-8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14616423?dopt=Abstract
Yazaki Y1, Chow G, Mattie M. A single-center, double-blinded, randomized controlled study to evaluate the relative efficacy of sublingual and oral vitamin B-complex administration in reducing total serum homocysteine levels. J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Nov;12(9):881-5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17109579?dopt=Abstract