If you are reading this post, then you probably already know about the importance of getting enough vitamin B12.
What you might not know is why B12 is important and how many options there are for vegetarians and vegans to get enough of this vital vitamin.
Read on for a brief description of the functions of vitamin B12. We’ll also have a discussion about different supplement options.
Why You Need Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is manufactured by bacteria that lives inside of animals, so this vitamin can only be found in animal-based foods.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians can get sufficient vitamin B12 from diet alone, but vegans and true vegetarians must look elsewhere.
Vitamin B12 plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous and circulatory systems, so deficiencies should not be overlooked. Long-term deficiencies are linked to cognitive disorders.
Vitamin B12 Is Not Created Equally
When you are considering different supplement options, remember that not all vitamin B12 is created equally.
The molecular compound for vitamin B12 is known as cobalamin. In the creation of vitamin B12, the cobalamin compound combines with other molecules called donors to make a complete vitamin.
If cobalamin combines with a methyl donor, it forms methylcobalamin. If cobalamin combines with a cyanide donor, it forms cyanocobalamin.
Although the molecular structures of these two forms of vitamin B12 are very similar, they are processed by the body differently.
Methylcobalamin is the form of B12 that is created naturally, so it is easier for the body to process and convert into usable forms of vitamin B12.
In the body, the methyl donor is extracted from the cobalamin structure and is used to replenish methyl levels that naturally occur in the body. Methyl works to detoxify the body by removing free radicals, so having more methyl is a good for overall health.
On the other hand, cyanocobalamin is the man-made form of vitamin B12. If you think about it, you probably would not want to put cyanide into your body if you had a choice, but by taking cyanocobalamin that is exactly what you are doing.
The cyanide levels present in cyanocobalamin are nowhere near significant enough to harm you, though converting cyanocobalamin into usable vitamin B12 is more difficult for the body.
Cyanocobalamin can actually deplete methyl levels because methyl is an integral part of this conversion.
How Does All This Relate To Supplements?
Basically, when you are choosing a supplement, read the label carefully to see what type of cobalamin was used to make the vitamin B12 in the supplement.
Cyanocobalamin is cheaper to manufacture, so most vitamin supplements use this type of vitamin B12. However, methylcobalamin is much better for your body. Given the choice definitely opt for methylcobalamin.
Now that you know more about making an informed choice about the type of vitamin B12 in your supplements, it is time to consider the supplement options available to vegetarians and vegans.
1. Oral Pills
Oral supplements are easy, readily available, and can often be found as a multivitamin that contains other useful ingredients as well.
Remember that vitamin C can inhibit your body's absorption of vitamin B12, so be cautious about your vitamin C consumption when taking your pill.
2. Intranasal Gel
Intranasal gel is exactly what it sounds like: gel that you put inside of your nostrils. It is not uncomfortable and is an easy way to get enough B12, especially if you are not fond of taking pills.
The vitamin will be absorbed through the membranes in the nose and taken by the blood stream to where it needs to go.
3. Sublingual Tablets
Sublingual tablets are placed under the tongue and allowed to dissolve without the aid of food or water.
Do not bite tablets as this will release all of the vitamin B12 at once, which can reduce the amount that your body is actually able to absorb. Do not split tablets unless there is a score line and the instructions tell you to do so.
4. Liquid Supplement
Vitamin B12 supplements also come in liquid form. If you choose this option, be sure to use a proper measuring spoon to get the proper dose as kitchen spoons vary widely in size.
Read the directions as some liquids need to be shaken before each dose.
Injections are the most surefire way to ensure that you are receiving the full dose of vitamin B12. By being administered in this way, the vitamin bypasses the intestinal tract. A large portion of vitamins, whether obtained through diet or supplements, are lost in the intestinal tract.
Injections can be done at home and are not as painful as you may think. Be sure to talk to your doctor about proper dosage before starting with B12 injections.
Now you know more about vitamin B12 and the supplement options available to vegetarians and vegans. Feel free to share your preferred kind of B12 supplement in the comment section below.
Image courtesy of derekbruff.