The Goods

What you need to know about B12

A doctor decodes the buzz on the popular vitamin

A doctor decodes the buzz on the popular vitamin

(Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Vitamin B12 has gained a reputation as a quick fix for fatigue. People want an easy solution to their exhaustion. B12 seems like a safe, easy solution. But what should we know about the vitamin before jump on the bandwagon? Dr. Vivien Brown came by The Goods studio to give us the key facts about the popular vitamin.

The basics

B12 is an essential vitamin that impacts metabolism, the nervous system and brain function. Our bodies can't make it. It needs to be ingested. Foods from animal products such as meat and dairy are rich in B12. That means that vegans are more at risk of B12 deficiency.

You can get added B12 as a pill or an injection. Some people, like Crohn's and colitis sufferers, can't absorb the vitamin. For those people, injections are usually more helpful.

What if we don't get enough?

Our bodies need B12 to function. People with low B12 have a low red blood count, and are often anemic. A lack of B12 can cause numbness, like tingling in the fingers and toes, due to problems with neurotransmitters. Low B12 can also cause depression, early dementia, and fatigue. Most people get their B12 by ingesting it, but for some their bodies can't absorb it that way.

The best way to get it

Eating a healthy diet with foods that are packed with B12 is an easy way to get your levels up if they're low. Since B12 is mostly found in animal products, it's more difficult to ingest for vegans, but they can take a supplement. If you suspect you might be deficient, see your family doctor before you change up your routine. They can give you a blood test to see if you're low in B12.

Which item has more B12? 

Scrambled eggs or an egg white omelette?

Scrambled eggs. All the B12 in an egg is in the yolk. No yolks, no B12.

Salmon or tofu?

Salmon is high in B12. Soy, the primary ingredient in tofu, doesn't contain any B12. That said, there are some brands of tofu that have B12 added.

A glass of whole milk or a glass of skim milk?

It's a tie. Having more or less fat in your milk doesn't change how much B12 is in it.

Fortified cereal or oatmeal?

Fortified cereal. There's no B12 in oatmeal.


A few of the most common questions about B12, answered.

1. Some people take B12 injections for weight loss. Do they work?

No they don't. It doesn't alter weight. But there is new information that pregnant mothers who don't have enough B12 may not be producing an enzyme that helps their babies with satiety. Babies born of mothers with low B12 may have higher risk of diabetes or obesity.

2. Can you "overdose" on B12? Is that a risk?

If you're taking B12 and don't need it, you'll just flush it out of your system. So there's no harm in taking too much of it.

3. If we're feeling low in energy, is it safe to assume we need to have our B12 levels tested?

Absolutely. Get tested. Twenty percent of North Americans have borderline low B12, and three to four percent of us have significantly low levels.