Vitamin B12 Injections: Should I jump on the bandwagon?
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.