As a primary care physician, I am often approached by patients curious about the therapeutic role that Vitamin B12 can play in their general health. Specifically, patients often cite friends or family members who are receiving B12 injections and reportedly “feel better”, but they are usually not aware of a clear deficiency that is being targeted by this therapy. To preface, Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble B complex vitamin. It is found naturally in a variety of foods including fish, meat, and dairy. Vitamin B12 is also added to some foods and can be taken as a dietary supplement as well. A deficiency in Vitamin B12 is most commonly caused by poor absorption or inadequate intake of vitamin B12-containing food sources. Severely low Vitamin B12 levels can manifest as neurologic disease as well low blood counts. Low levels are also associated with dementia and poor cognitive function. Getting your B12 level measured may be effective if you have a certain type of anemia or are at risk for poor Vitamin B12 intake. Those at risk include alcoholics, vegans, and those with little variety in their diets (e.g. the tea and toast diet often seen in the geriatric population).
Vitamin B12 can be supplemented in a variety of ways including oral supplementation and B12 injections which can be administered in the physician’s office. Vitamin B12 supplementation is overall very well tolerated with little side effects. There has been much hype about people obtaining B12 injections for weight loss or for a boost in energy levels. However, unless you have an underlying deficiency, the injections are likely to be of little benefit. With that said, getting large amounts of Vitamin B12 through injections is unlikely to harm your health. However, it can interfere with the efficacy of some medications so if you are receiving supplementation, be sure to let your physician know.
If you are hoping to lose weight, remember to be wary of a quick fix as it probably will not be an effective approach. Having a healthy diet and exercise are key to your daily routine. And again, if you ever have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your primary care physician.