Other names: Methylcobalamin
Used for: Increased memory and attention, improved metabolism, brain health, reduced risk of stroke and heart disease
Known side effects: anxiety, nervousness, nausea, loss of appetite with very high doses
Dosing: 25-100 mcg daily; can be upped to 100-500 mcg with age
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that everyone needs and is present in every single cell in the body. The vitamin is essential for the formation of red blood cells, normal functioning of the nervous system, and the synthesis of neurotransmitters, Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), and Ribonucleic acid (RNA). Vitamin B12 also plays a vital role in the maintenance of Myelin – the insulating layer that protects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.
Methylcobalamin – the human-made form of Cobalamin – provides all the health benefits of B12 plus something more. In some countries, methylcobalamin was referred to as the painkiller vitamin (1). Supplementation of this vitamin not only thwarts the risk of B12 deficiency but also offers a range of nootropic benefits.
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Several scientists have been directly and indirectly involved in the discovery of Vitamin B12. Studies on pernicious anemia – an autoimmune disease that destroys digestive cells – led to the discovery of B12. After decades of research, it was only in 1959 that mass production of B12 vitamin from bacteria was developed.
The Different Forms of Vitamin B12
The B12 vitamin is available in various forms, but the three common types are methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, and cyanocobalamin.
Although cyanocobalamin is the most popular OTC B12 supplement, those wanting to enhance their cognitive capabilities prefer methylcobalamin for the added brain-boosting benefits it provides.
How Vitamin B12 Functions
Methylcobalamin has become the most popular form of B12 because the body quickly absorbs it. It is quite similar to cyanocobalamin; the only difference is in its chemical structure; it has a methyl group instead of cyanide.
Vitamin B12 and Enzyme Synthesis: Many enzymes are dependent on B12 for their creation, including methionine. These enzymes are necessary for many neurological and physiological processes.
Vitamin B12 and Neurotransmitters: Our brain needs both Vitamin B6 and B12 for the synthesis of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Compounds that affect memory, mood, and other faculties – serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA, and acetylcholine – are reliant on these vitamins.
Vitamin B12 and Metabolism: Individuals who complain of lack of energy are often prescribed vitamin tablets because our body needs vitamins like B12 for the metabolism of food into energy. B12 vitamin helps in the breakdown of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to smaller parts.
Vitamin B12 and Homocysteine: While talking about B12 and enzymes, we mentioned methionine. When the proteins break down, they release homocysteine, a form of amino acids. Homocysteine at higher levels causes inflammation that can later develop into plaque, thereby increasing the risk of stroke and heart diseases. Vitamin B12 reduces homocysteine levels by converting it into methionine.
Vitamin B12 and Methylation: This vitamin also donates its methyl group to the RNA and DNA for Methylation.
The Dangers of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is water soluble; so it refuses to stay in the body for an extended period. It gets flushed out, which increases the risk of B12 deficiency. As far as B12 is concerned, a non-vegetarian diet has more B12 than vegetarian or vegan diets. Hence, people who shun meat and fish are at a higher risk of developing B12 deficiency.
In our body, Cobalamin has several important roles to play. The vitamin is initially divided into two chemicals, then again converted to several enzymes that are used by the body to carry out numerous activities.
The importance of the B12 vitamin can be gauged from the problems that arise due to its deficiency.
Shortage of this vitamin can affect the cognition and lead to forgetfulness, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other brain disorders.
Other conditions of milder or more serious nature that can affect a person deficient in B12 can include depression, hallucinations, behavioral changes, erectile dysfunction, bladder dysfunction, balance problems, vision problems, fatigue, weakness, neuropathy, and myelopathy.
The Nootropic Benefits of Vitamin B12
The B12 vitamin boosts physiological and cognitive health, but its brain enhancement benefits are of particular interest to us:
Methylcobalamin Increases Memory and Attention
All major neurotransmitters are dependent on the availability of vitamins like B12 for their production.
Memory and attention are two of the most sought after faculties by everyone, especially students, professionals, and entrepreneurs. Acetylcholine is regarded by many as the memory neurotransmitter in the brain. This neurotransmitter performs several functions, but the chief among them are the memory, attention, and sleep (REM sleep) (2) (3) (4).
We also need this brain chemical to keep off some of the severe brain problems such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Scientists have found that a shortage of acetylcholine in the hippocampus area in the brain increases the risk of cognitive decline (5). One-Carbon Metabolism is vital for the synthesis of acetylcholine and other neurotransmitters and enzymes. Vitamin serves as a donor and co-factor to promote the process.
Vitamin B12 Treats Psychiatric Problems
In a case, scientists found a clear link between B12 and mood-related problems. In France, doctors examined a patient with no prior history of psychiatric problems. The doctors noticed premature aging and determined symptoms including sleeping, attention, and memory problems.
The patient also spoke and reacted slowly; she had low self-esteem and suffered from depression. The doctors identified a lack of Intrinsic Factor as the cause of the problem. The patient’s mental health improved dramatically after just ten days of treatment with vitamin B12 (6).
Vitamin B12 helps alleviate the symptoms of several mental and mood-related problems. A patient who had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) witnessed a gradual decrease in symptoms after taking methylcobalamin (7).
Vitamin B12 Promotes Sleep
Many people suffer from sleep-related disorders such as insomnia, lack of quality sleep, feeling tired in the morning, etc. The B12 vitamin helps improve the REM sleep and regulates the sleep-wake cycle (8) (9).
The Circadian Rhythm not only impacts sleep by influencing the sleep-wake cycle, but it’s also believed to be associated with several illnesses and diseases. Vitamin B12 improves sleep quality and prevents several ailments by increasing light sensitivity and regulating the circadian rhythm (10).
Vitamin B12 Is Good for Brain Health
Shortage of Vitamin B9 and B12 are associated with depression and other mood-related disorders. It’s believed that the absence of these vitamins also affects the body’s response to anti-depression medication.
In a study in Norway, researchers found that homocysteine levels were directly associated with the risk of depression; the risk increases along with the increase in homocysteine levels. The doctors are hopeful of effectively combating depression with B12 and Folic Acid (11).
Regular intake of the B12 vitamin supplement has been shown to lessen the risk of depression, the chances of relapse, and the onset of severe symptoms (12). The vitamin also eased the symptoms of depression in participants suffering from the disorder or found to be deficient in B12 (13).
In an animal study, scientists have established that vitamin B12 can effectively treat sciatic nerve injuries (14). The vitamin has also shown a remarkable ability to repair ischemic neuronal damage (15) and promote neuronal regeneration.
Vitamin B12 Prevents Alzheimer’s and Cognitive Decline
In Stockholm, researchers studied the association of Alzheimer’s with two vitamins – B9 (Folic Acid) and B12. The study involved 370 participants, all aged above 75 years with no signs of dementia. The group was under observation for Alzheimer’s for three years. After the study period, the levels of folic acid and B12 of the participants were tested and compared.
The researchers found that the participants with low levels of the two vitamins were twice as likely to develop dementia disorder. They also proposed regular monitoring of folate and B12 levels to prevent Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly (16).
Vitamin B12 Dosage
Vitamin B12 is found in the most delicious tasting foods such as eggs, poultry, clams, beef, liver, tuna, salmon, trout, and sardine. For vegans and vegetarians, the ideal source of B12 includes dairy products, yeast, cereals, shitake mushroom, and nori.
The daily recommended dosage of this vitamin is low; between 1 – 25 mcg. Such a moderate daily intake is not enough to improve cognitive faculties. A dosage between 25 – 100 mcg is usually prescribed to boost mental capabilities.
Vitamin B12 is well-tolerated even at higher doses. Besides, after the age of 40, the body gradually loses the ability to absorb vitamins effectively. Hence, as you age, to maintain the same impact on cognition, the dosage can be increased to 100 – 500 mcg.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is found in only a few groups of people, those who pursue a diet devoid of meat and eggs. Doctors typically prescribe a daily dosage of 2000 mcg for a week, then 1000 mcg once per week, and after four weeks, a dose of 1000 mcg once a month (17).
How to Use Vitamin B12
There are no strict rules that dictate the use of Methylcobalamin supplement. The vitamin is water-soluble; it can be taken with or without food. Those with a sensitive stomach who worry about the effects of the supplement on the gut can consume B12 with food.
The methylcobalamin supplement is available in various forms – pills and capsules – and doses. Some users take the supplement sublingually to facilitate absorption.
The Possible Side Effects of Vitamin B12
Even at higher doses, B12 is safe, non-toxic, and well-tolerated. No severe side effects and toxicity linked with B12 has been ever reported.
The common side effects that might affect the users include anxiety, nervousness, involuntary movement, skin rashes and problems, and headache. The users of methylcobalamin may also experience gastrointestinal distress, wooziness, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Vitamin B12 can rightfully claim the tag of a nootropic. Supplementation of B12 helps the brain in more ways than one. The vitamin is especially helpful in improving memory, focus, and attention. It can improve sleep and fight anxiety, depression, and other mood-related disorders. It reduces the risk of brain shrinkage and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s by lowing levels of homocysteine and boosting acetylcholine and other vital neurotransmitters.
- “Methylcobalamin: A Potential Vitamin of Pain Killer.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3888748/.
- “The Cholinergic Hypothesis of Alzheimer’s Disease: a Review of Progress.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10071091.
- “Increases in Cortical Acetylcholine Release during Sustained Attention Performance in Rats.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10808142.
- “From Waking to Sleeping: Neuronal and Chemical Substrates.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16183137.
- “The Cholinergic Hypothesis of Alzheimer’s Disease: a Review of Progress.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10071091.
- “Psychiatric Manifestations of Vitamin B12 Deficiency: a Case Report.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15029091.
- “Cobalamin Deficiency Presenting as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: Case Report.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22227032.
- “Vitamin B12 Treatment for Sleep-Wake Rhythm Disorders.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2305167.
- “Treatment of Persistent Sleep-Wake Schedule Disorders in Adolescents with Methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12).” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1759094.
- “Effects of Vitamin B12 on Plasma Melatonin Rhythm in Humans: Increased Light Sensitivity Phase-Advances the Circadian Clock?” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1516676.
- “Treatment of Depression: Time to Consider Folic Acid and Vitamin B12.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15671130.
- “Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trials of Folate and Vitamin B12 for Depression.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25644193.
- “Vitamin B12 Supplementation in Treating Major Depressive Disorder: a Randomized Controlled Trial.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24339839.
- “Dexamethasone and Vitamin B12 Synergistically Promote Peripheral Nerve Regeneration in Rats by Upregulating the Expression of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506245/.
- “Vitamin B Complex and Vitamin B12 Levels after Peripheral Nerve Injury.” NCBI, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4904479/.
- “Vitamin B12 and Folate in Relation to the Development of Alzheimer’s Disease.” Neurology, http://n.neurology.org/content/56/9/1188.1.short .
- “Oral Vitamin B12 versus Intramuscular Vitamin B12 for Vitamin B12 Deficiency: a Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials .” Oxford Academic, https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/23/3/279/476697 .
“Methylcobalamin 1500 Mcg Tablets Brand Names, Benefits and How to Use Safely.” Nootriment, https://nootriment.com/methylcobalamin-1500-mcg-tablets/ .
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“Vitamin B12 Nootropic Benefits for Your Brain and Cognitive Function.” Nootriment, https://nootriment.com/vitamin-b12-nootropic/ .
“8 Proven Vitamin B12 Benefits Side Effects from Deficiency.” SELFHACKED, https://selfhacked.com/blog/vitamin-b12/ .
“10 Acetylcholine Benefits Function, Definition & Supplements.” SELFHACKED, https://selfhacked.com/blog/acetylcholine/ .