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Best B12 Supplements

Updated November 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best B12 supplements

    Last Updated November 2018

    Vitamin B12 is one of the 13 essential vitamins your body needs to maintain health, growth, and vitality. It plays an important role in metabolism and red blood cell production. It’s also one of the vitamins you’re most likely to be deficient in, especially if you are middle-aged or older. Luckily, taking a B12 supplement daily is an effective way to make sure you’re getting enough of this vital vitamin.

    But while there are a lot of vitamin B12 supplements on the market – along with various multivitamin and B vitamin blends containing this essential nutrient – choosing the right one can be a puzzle. With so many different types, doses, and brands, how do you find the best B12 supplement for your needs?

    At BestReviews, we make purchasing decisions easy with our recommendations and shopping guides. For everything you need to know about B12 supplements before you buy, just keep reading.

    Healthy levels of B12 are critical for maintaining your nervous system and heart health, as well as producing red blood cells.

    What is vitamin B12?

    B12 is one of eight B vitamins. All eight are water-soluble, meaning they dissolve in water and tend not to build up in the body. B12, however, is something of an exception; although it is water-soluble, it is also stored in the liver. As a general rule, your body needs to use water-soluble vitamins as they are consumed, as any excess is excreted in urine. This means you really can’t “overdose” on vitamin B.

    The eight B vitamins are chemically different, but because they are generally found in the same foods and have similar functions in the body, mostly having to do with metabolism, they are grouped together. The eight B vitamins are:

    • B1 (thiamine) helps convert carbohydrates into glucose and strengthens the nervous system, hair, and skin.

    • B2 (riboflavin) contributes to cellular energy production, as well as eye, adrenal, and nervous system health.

    • B3 (niacin) is critical for heart health and also helps with cellular energy production and nervous system health.

    • B5 (pantothenic acid) helps your body turn food into energy and also strengthens the liver, skin, hair, and nervous system.

    • B6 (pyridoxine) plays a part in immune system function, the production of hemoglobin in red blood cells, and nervous system health.

    • B7 (biotin) helps your body metabolize carbohydrates and fat, as well as fight off disease.

    • B9 (folate) helps your body utilize amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.

    • B12 (cobalamin) works to create new blood cells, nerve cells, and genetic building blocks DNA and RNA. It’s also critical to maintaining a strong immune system and healthy adrenal function.
       

    As a group, B vitamins are frequently found in the same foods. Vitamin B12, however, is the one B vitamin not found naturally in any plant-based food. It’s abundant in eggs, poultry, fish, pork, and beef, along with dairy products. This means that vegans and vegetarians need to either rely on B12-supplemented cereals, plant milks, and soy products or take a daily B12 supplement.

    Your doctor can diagnose a vitamin B12 deficiency with a simple blood test.

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    BestReviews

    Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

    Most people get enough B12 from a well-balanced diet, but there are certain groups who might be deficient in this essential vitamin. Older adults, particularly those over age 50, often have decreased levels of hydrochloric acid in their stomachs, making it much more difficult for their bodies to break down and absorb B12. Vegans and vegetarians need to supplement with B12, as it does not occur naturally in any plant-based food.

    People suffering with pernicious anemia are unable to absorb B12, as their stomach cells fail to produce intrinsic factor, a protein necessary to metabolize this vitamin. Anyone with a chronic digestive system disease, including Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, or who has had weight-loss surgery or other digestive tract procedures is at a higher risk for B12 deficiency, too.

    While symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can be vague, some common signs include pale skin or mild jaundice, fatigue, a chronic “pins and needles” sensation in the hands and feet,  difficulty balancing or walking, sores in the mouth, swollen tongue, dizziness, shortness of breath, blurry vision, and depression.

    Types of vitamin B12

    There are four basic types of vitamin B12.

    Methylcobalamin is the most active form of B12 in the body and is easily absorbed. The “methyl” portion is extra carbon and hydrogen. This type of B12 works well to reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that at high levels increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Most good-quality B12 supplements contain this form of the vitamin.

    Cyanocobalamin is a synthetic form of B12. The “cyano” portion is a cyanide group, but this isn’t cyanide at a dose that will harm you. Your body converts cyanocobalamin into methylcobalamin. Some research suggests that at high doses cyanocobalamin is better absorbed than methylcobalamin, but there is considerable dispute in the vitamin world as to which one is better. Most inexpensive B12 supplements contain this form of the vitamin.

    Hydroxocobalamin is made by bacteria and is the most common form of B12 found in food. It’s absorbed easily and remains in the body for a long time. While you’ll find this form of B12 in some supplements, it’s most often used in B12 injections for pernicious anemia or other conditions causing severe B12 deficiency or as an antidote for cyanide poisoning.

    Adenosylcobalamin is the least stable form of the vitamin, but it is often used in vegan B12 supplements.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    Vitamin B12 deficiencies are likelier in people older than 50.

    Types of B12 supplements

    Peruse the vitamin aisles of your local health food store, and you’ll find B12 in several different forms. Though you’ll need to visit your doctor or other medical professional for injections of the vitamin, you have lots of choices for taking it at home. While there is considerable dispute about the best way to take B12, studies haven’t conclusively shown that any particular delivery system for the vitamin is more easily absorbed, more effective long term, or better for you, so it mostly comes down to your personal preference.

    B12 tablets are the familiar form of most vitamins. You simply swallow the pill, and it dissolves in your stomach. Many health food and nutrition experts advise against tablets, as it takes longer for the vitamin to reach your bloodstream when it has to go through the digestive system first, but research hasn’t shown any long-term advantages or disadvantages to this delivery method.

    B12 gummies are chewy, fruity, candy-like vitamins that appeal more to children than regular tablets. They also break down in the digestive system before reaching your bloodstream.

    Sublingual B12 dissolves under your tongue or in your mouth. Because the mucus membranes underneath your tongue are densely packed with capillaries close to the surface, the vitamin absorbs very quickly and directly into your bloodstream. Many people prefer sublingual vitamins because you get an immediate “boost” of benefits. If you prefer this method, look for a brand that doesn’t add sugar, artificial colors, or artificial flavors to the product to improve the taste. Instead, choose a brand that uses only natural flavors, such as fruit juice. There are a few forms of sublingual B12 to choose from: small dissolvable tablets, sometimes called melts; sprays; or liquid drops.

    Transdermal B12 comes in the form of creams or patches. You apply the product to your skin, and it absorbs into the capillaries beneath the surface of your skin.

    B12 nasal gels and sprays are absorbed directly into your bloodstream through the many capillaries inside your nose.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you prefer to avoid meat, look for a vegan B12 supplement.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Prices for B12 supplements

    The cost of B12 supplements depends on a few factors, including the type of B12, whether the vitamin is a tablet or sublingual product, and the brand name.

    As a general rule, most good-quality B12 tablets, gummies, and sublingual melts and sprays cost between $10 and $20.

    You’ll pay more for liquid drops, creams, and patches. These B12 supplements are usually in the $20 to $30 range.

    While your body does store some of the B12 you consume, most of the vitamin is excreted in your urine.

    FAQ

    Q. What dose of vitamin B12 should I take?

    A. The recommended daily allowance for B12 is 2.4 micrograms for those over the age of 14. Most supplements, however, provide a far larger dose of this essential vitamin. While people with normal levels of B12 won’t receive much benefit from large doses of the vitamin, those with deficiencies or who are at risk of a B12 deficiency due to age, digestive system surgery, or pernicious anemia are often directed to take a supplement with a fairly high amount of B12.

    You’ll find B12 supplements with anywhere from 500 micrograms to 5,000 micrograms. Because your body stores some of the B12 you consume, you generally only need to take high-dose supplements once per week. At the lowest end of the range, you’ll want to take your vitamin daily. Doses in the mid-range are best taken two or three times per week.

    Q. Do B12 supplements interact with any medications?

    A. While vitamin B12 is safe to take with most medications, there are a few drugs that reduce your body’s ability to absorb it. Some of the most common offenders are metformin, Prilosec, Prevacid, and drugs used to treat gout. Vitamin C also hampers the absorption of B12. You can generally avoid problems by taking your B12 supplement at least two hours before or after taking your other medications.

    Q. Will a B12 supplement improve my energy level?

    A. While there is a great deal of hype over the supposed energy-boosting effects of B12, unless you are truly deficient in the vitamin, consuming a supplement isn’t likely to drastically affect your energy level. Many people do feel better after taking B12, however, which is partly due to a placebo effect and partly because the vitamin does improve your body’s ability to create energy from the foods you eat.

    The team that worked on this review
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