I’m a vegetarian who is concerned that I’m not getting enough vitamin B12.
Q. Dear Terry, “I’m a vegetarian who is concerned that I’m not getting enough vitamin B12. I want to start supplementing and would like some information on what kind of B12 I should take.” — Monel C., Parkersburg, WV
A. Dear Monel, Vitamin B12 has many roles and is necessary for many body processes: creating neurotransmitters (our brain’s chemical messengers), supporting mood, boosting our immune system, protecting our nervous system, increasing energy levels, and is important for the health of our hair, skin, and nails.
Dietary sources of vitamin B12 include meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy, making it difficult for vegans and vegetarians to consume optimal amounts of vitamin B12.
I would recommend using a supplement to boost your B12 levels. When it comes to B vitamins, especially vitamin B12, using the bioactive or human form is very important.
There are two main forms of vitamin B12 that you will find on the shelf: cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin. Cyanocobalamin tends to be cheaper because it is synthetic. This form also needs to go through additional steps in the body to become the active form – methylcobalamin. Methylcobalamin is the form that we use in our bodies and is crucial for optimal health.
The conversion of cyanocobalamin to methylcobalamin is very ineffective and can be even more problematic for people with certain gene mutations, like MTHFR. It is estimated that anywhere from 30-50% of the population struggles with the conversion of cyanocobalamin to methylcobalamin.
Therefore, I highly recommend supplementing with vitamin B12 in its bioactive human form of methylcobalamin. Vitamin B12 is often combined with B6 and folic acid – their human forms being pyridoxal-5-phosphate and L-methylfolate, respectively. These forms don’t require conversion by the liver, so they can go to work immediately to increase energy levels, boost mood and optimize metabolism. I would take these B vitamins once or twice per day.
Terry . . . Naturally