Here's What Vitamin B12 Can And Can't For For You

Vitamin B12 can often sound like a wonder drug, although it is not an actual drug, but instead a vitamin the body needs for healthy living. It can be found in food sources and also taken as a supplement. Some people turn to B12 for any number of things, including weight loss, but can B12 do all the things Dr. Google purports, and if it can't, what can it do for you?

B12 is an essential vitamin that helps the body create red blood cells, as well as help with nerve function. The best foods to eat to get your daily recommendation of 2.4 micrograms a day of B12 are meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and other food derived from animals. That's why vegans and people who rely on plant-based diets are in danger of B12 deficiency, which can be dangerous and also disrupt your quality of life (via Harvard Health). In addition, you might be in danger of suffering from B12 deficiency if you've had weight loss surgery because the procedure can prevent your body from absorbing B12 correctly. That is why doctors offer a variety of ways to supplement B12, depending on how severe your deficiency is. But is it a miracle vitamin?

Signs that you may have a B12 deficiency

If your body is lacking B12, your quality of life may suffer. Some symptoms of a B12 deficiency may include weakness, fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, numbness or tingling in the extremities, anemia, difficulty walking, and an inflamed tongue. If you are feeling any of these symptoms, ask your doctor to check your B12 levels with a simple blood test. If you let the deficiency go for too long, it can become dangerous, with Harvard Health describing the case of a man who began turning yellow and experiencing shortness of breath all due to being severely low in B12. 

Doctors can prescribe weekly B12 shots for a period of time, depending on the extent of your deficiency or prescribe high dosage B12 pills. If you already know you're eating a diet low in B12, you can help maintain the right levels before they become low by taking a good over-the-counter multivitamin with B12 in it.

What to expect -- and not expect -- from a B12 supplement

Essentially, a B12 supplement can help fix the problems you've been having if you suffer from a B12 deficiency, but that's about it. Harvard Health noted that some studies have shown it can help prevent Alzheimer's Disease, but the studies have been faulty. In fact, even a dose with 1000 micrograms of B12 showed no increase in cognitive abilities.

B12 has also been touted as a weight loss vitamin, as it can help boost the metabolism and give you energy. In fact, some weight loss clinics will even prescribe B12 injections as part of its regular protocol. However, this is only true if you are already B12 deficient. Adding B12 if your body does not need more will not help you shed the pounds. Instead, Mayo Clinic recommended a healthy diet for that. The clinic did point out that B12 injections if you don't need them are not necessarily harmful, but they can interfere with the function of other medications, so talk about this with your doctor if they want to prescribe B12.