B12: What’s the Fuss About?

We’ve all grown up with the knowledge that vitamins are necessary; vitamin C is important to not get sick, vitamin D is harder to get during winter when the sun hides away, vitamin A is important for your eye-sight and vitamin E is great for your skin (amongst other things). But there’s also a bunch of B’s that we don’t even try to remember.

However, they’re important as well, and help with things like releasing energy from food, supporting the nervous system and keeping the skin healthy. They are all pretty important, and luckily, we do get them covered through the food we eat, so we don’t really have to think too much about them. But… there is one of the “big b’s” that is good to know a thing or two about: Vitamin B12.

B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. That means that it dissolves in water and it is not stored in the body like the fat-soluble vitamins. You can’t take an overdose on water soluble vitamins, because it will go out with your urine. Because of this though, we need constant nourishment from the food we eat.

Before you start writing down things and run to the store to do a B12 shopping spree, it can be nice to know what it actually does in your body. It’s kind of a health superhero! It’s involved with the synthesis of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, so it has an effect on your mood/mental health. It is also important for red blood cell formation (red blood cells are the ones that carry oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from your body) and the cherry on the top of the vitamin cake: it helps make DNA.

B12 is only to be found naturally in animal products.

Now, find your pen and paper and let’s make a shopping list.

Many of the B vitamins are found in a great variety of foods, but B12 is only to be found naturally in animal products. Everything from fish to chicken, eggs, dairy and meat. This actually makes it easy to get the amount you need. However, you should also look out for signs of deficiency: tiredness, depression or feelings of weakness. If you notice these symptoms, it could be worth having blood tests to check if things are okay.

If you are vegan or vegetarian, you might wonder what this means for you. There has been some discussion about plant-based diets and B12, and there’s really not enough research to make any conclusions. I would recommend to either take a supplement or to buy food that has added B12 in it.

“But remember: if you are ever in doubt, talk to your doctor or request a blood test”

Examples include nutritional yeast (which you can add to soup or oatmeal) and nut or coconut milk. Even some cereal brands add B12 to their product. If you make a conscious choice to ensure you buy B12-rich food, you’ll be good – even on a plant-based diet. But remember: if you are ever in doubt, talk to your doctor or request a blood test.

Vibeke Litland


Valizadeh M., Valizadeh N. (2011). Obsessive Compulsive Disorder as Early Manifestation of B12 Deficiency. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. 33(2) pp. 2

Featured image courtesy of denAsuncioner via Flickr. Image licence found here.

Article image 1 courtesy of Vitamina Verde via Flickr. Image licence found here.

Article image 2 courtesy of stu_spivack via Flickr. Image licence found here.

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