Many people have asked me if vitamin B12 is safe or if it helps weight loss. Oddly, most of these questions come from the state of Maryland. That makes me think that someone in Maryland is using B12 for weight loss. Let’s now discuss vitamin B 12, and whether it can help people lose weight.
Vitamin B12 is a member of the B complex family of vitamins. Vitamin B12 is also a “water soluble” vitamin. Many people take this to mean that we excrete (in other words, pee out) excess B12.
Vitamin B 12 is one of the nutrients we need to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen though the body. You use the oxygen to help make energy. If your red blood cells are not working properly, anemia can result. One of the signs of anemia is being tired. Because of this fact, people often say that vitamin B12 will give you extra energy or “pep” to get through a hard or stressful day.
The “vitamin B12 gives you energy” connection is also probably why energy drinks like 5 Hour Energy contain B12 as well.
There was a very small study of B12 helping fatigue but it was done in the early 1970s, had problems with how the study was conducted and to my knowledge, was never replicated.
In most people, vitamin B12 is pretty easily obtained from food so most people don’t need it. Also, even though it’s a water soluble vitamin, it takes about 3-5 years before we run out of vitamin B12.
That’s right; we store vitamin B12 in our body. That said, sometimes older adults lose the ability to absorb this vitamin. After several years, they run out of B 12 and this is why a doctor will sometimes give them a B12 shot. Strict, hard-core, vegetarians who eat no meat / animal foods are another group who might need supplemental B12.
But, do vitamin B12 injections help weight loss? Most people are surprised to learn that there is no good peer-reviewed evidence linking vitamin B12 injections to weight loss. The same is true for vitamin B 12 supplements. If that is the case, why would some doctors or weight loss clinics give people this vitamin?
This is what I think is going on:
It’s possible that getting weekly injections of vitamin B12 may help people adhere to their weight loss goals. In other words, if they know they have to return to the clinic each week and get weighed and get a B12 shot, then they may be more likely to stick to the diet. Weekly meetings like this might actually be one of the reasons that Weight Watchers is so successful at helping people lose weight.
It’s also important to note that people usually don’t just get shots of B12; they also get a low calorie diet to follow also.
What about the Placebo effect. In other words, if you think it works, it likely will work. Being told by somebody (like a doctor or a professional wearing a white coat) that B12 helps weight loss might be a strong enough stimulus to make people believe in the efficacy of this nutrient.
Many overweight people also have type II diabetes. As such, they may be taking a drug called glucophage (metformin). Several studies have noted that this drug can lower B12 levels. Therefore, it’s possible that a doctor may give vitamin B12 injections to counteract this effect.
Added to these groups are those who have undergone weight loss surgery. Bariatric surgery can lead to reductions in the absorption of many nutrients -including B12. Also see my review of Bystrictin for more information.
Does vitamin B12 help weight loss?
There may be medical reasons why a doctor would prescribe vitamin B12. But, for weight loss, there is no good proof. For those who are interested here is vitamin B12 on Amazon.
What do you think?