Many people opt to take B12 as a pill or as an injection for the purpose of increasing their energy. I have a few patients that “swear” these supplements help. They describe being less fatigued and with more energy. A Google search using the terms “fatigue” and “vitamin B12” (cyanocobalamin) generates about 439,000 results. Many of these are links to alternative or complementary medicine Web sites that suggest cyanocobalamin as a treatment for fatigue and tiredness. So, let’s look at each of these supplements.
Oral B12 Supplements
B12 taken as a pill is known to be poorly absorbed. Your stomach has acids that breakdown and unfortunately neutralizes most of the B12. Yet, you do absorb some, but only about 0.5% of the B12 we consume. Frustrating isn’t it? So, it is pretty clear that taking oral vitamin B12 is of little use.
But here is the caveat, oral B12 is usually excreted easily by the kidneys. Unless it is taken in huge amounts, Vitamin B12 is not harmful, and is relatively cheap. Therefore, if you feel you get benefit from Vitamin B12 – take it!
Injectable B12 Supplements
A January 2011 “Wall Street Journal” article points to celebrities and Internet marketers who promote the injections as a treatment for everything from hangovers to a way to increase metabolism and shed pounds. Weight loss clinics may also offer vitamin B-12 shots as part of their program. The “Journal” states that fatigue, depression, memory loss and other symptoms such as a flagging appetite and problems with balance are also associated with vitamin B-12 deficiency; those low in B-12 may notice very subtle symptoms.
The reason why vitamin B-12 shots get so much talk time is because many people assume that because this treatment reduces fatigue experienced by people with dietary deficiencies, supplemental injections will pep them up as well. However, former Tufts University professor Irwin H. Rosenberg told the “Wall Street Journal” there’s no conclusive evidence to suggest that vitamin B-12 shots give you energy. Mayo Clinic nutritionist and blogger Katherine Zeratsky also states that unless you have a vitamin B-12 deficiency, these injections aren’t likely to do anything for you. MayoClinic.com gives vitamin B-12 for fatigue a “C” grade on the evidence scale, noting that while some people feel better with twice-weekly shots, more research needs to be done.
If you know me, then you know I do not recommend B12 supplementation unless you are deficient; as in pernicious anemia. But again, I will restate my feelings about B12: oral B12 is usually excreted easily by the kidneys. Unless it is taken in huge amounts, Vitamin B12 is not harmful, and is relatively cheap. Therefore, if you feel you get benefit from Vitamin B12 – take it!
Looking at the cost between oral vs. injectable B12 – oral B12 is much cheaper, than office visits and injectable B12. So, if you put your trust in movie stars and pop singers, vitamin B-12 injections can allegedly help you fight fatigue. But while likely harmless, vitamin B-12 shots probably won’t give you energy if you’re a healthy adult.