What Is Vitamin B12 and How Does It Benefit Your Heart

A commonly deficient vitamin, B12 is an essential nutrient that helps maintain heart and body function. Here’s why a quality supplement can support your health.

By 1MD Editorial Staff

0 minute read

Last Updated February 12, 2021

What Is Vitamin B12 and How Does It Benefit Your Heart

Vitamin B12 is an essential element that helps maintain proper body function. The body cannot make vitamin B12, so you must get this nutrient from your diet. Restrictive diets and underlying health conditions that prevent proper absorption of vitamin B12 result in between 2 and 15% of people being deficient for this vitamin. As an essential nutrient for heart health, it is important to maintain proper levels for optimal health. 

What Is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin found mostly in animal-based foods such as dairy, red meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Vegetarian and vegan diets that omit these foods need to add additional sources of vitamin B12 to their diet. 

In addition to this, individuals with underlying digestive conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption may also need supplemental vitamin B12. Those most at risk include:

♦ Adults over the age of 50
♦ People following a strict vegan diet
♦ Those who have had gastrointestinal surgeries
♦ People with gastrointestinal disorders

Vitamin B12 is important for several functions within the body. It has been shown to support heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Vitamin B12 is essential for cardiovascular health and the production of red blood cells. It also provides support for the nervous system and cognitive function while helping boost energy levels and mood. 

A deficiency in vitamin B12 can be slow to develop, so symptoms will appear gradually and will intensify over time. The symptoms of a B12 deficiency can be confused for other conditions, so it is often overlooked. It is important to have your levels tested if you experience any of these symptoms:

♦ strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
♦ difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
♦ anemia
♦ a swollen, inflamed tongue
♦ difficulty thinking and reasoning
♦ memory loss
♦ weakness
fatigue

Identifying a deficiency and helping restore proper levels of vitamin B12 in the blood is essential for your well-being. Deficiency in B12 can lead to psychological and physiological problems, including poor heart health. 

Vitamin B12 for Your Heart

Along with the production of red blood cells, one of the most important roles of vitamin B12 is its support in cardiovascular health. This vitamin's ability to reduce levels of homocysteine supports arterial integrity and reduces the risk of blood clots. High levels of homocysteine weaken and damage arteries, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Vitamin B12 also reduces the risk of blood clotting by keeping levels of homocysteine low. At elevated levels of homocysteine, blood clots are formed much easier. Combined with the elevated risk of hardened arteries, blood clot formation in the arteries (thrombus) is increased. A thrombus can also develop in your heart, causing a heart attack or stroke. Maintaining vitamin B12 levels significantly reduces this risk. 

Research has also found that low levels of vitamin B12 are associated with increased levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Too much cholesterol and high triglyceride levels can clog arteries causing them to narrow and restrict the flow of blood. As a result, the risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke increases. By reducing cholesterol naturally, vitamin B12 can help protect your heart.

Additional Benefits of Vitamin B12

The importance of vitamin B12 for heart function is only one of its health benefits. In addition to supporting heart function and lowering the risk of heart disease, vitamin B12 promotes overall health in several ways. 

Supports bone health: Studies have found that vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with lower than normal bone density and poor bone health, especially in women. 

Protects eye function: Vitamin B12 may lower levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which is associated with an increased risk of macular degeneration. 

Boosts mood: Vitamin B12 deficiency has been linked to reduced serotonin production and increased symptoms of depression. Supplements may improve mood through the restoration of proper serotonin levels in the blood. 

Supports cognitive function: The loss of neurons associated with memory loss and dementia may be reduced with proper vitamin B12 levels. Low levels of this vitamin have been linked to poor memory performance, indicating that supplements may improve memory and cognitive function

Boosts energy levels:  Vitamin B12 supplements have long been used as the go-to product for a quick energy boost. B12 does not produce the energy directly, but it plays an essential role in the body's energy production

Taking Vitamin B12

The recommended dosage of vitamin B12 varies depending on how much you consume from your diet. In general, the recommended daily intake for adults under the age of 50 is 2.4mcg. This amount is easy to consume through diet. If you have a restricted diet, digestive conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption, or are looking to improve heart health, a higher dose is recommended. 

Adults over the age of 50 are most at risk for being vitamin B12 deficient. The reason being that stomach acid levels decrease with age, and the acid is essential for proper vitamin B12 absorption. In these adults, doses of between 500mcg and 1000 mcg are strongly recommended to prevent deficiency. 

Additionally, pregnant and breastfeeding women have a slightly higher need for vitamin B12, and low levels of this vitamin have been associated with congenital disorders. Higher doses are recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women in the range of 2.6 to 2.8 mcg per day. Depending on the amount consumed through diet, supplemental support may be essential to maintain proper baby development. 

Possible Side Effects and Warnings

Vitamin B12 supplements are considered safe for consumption, and there is no tolerable upper intake level set. As a water-soluble vitamin, your body will excrete anything you do not need or use. In some cases, taking vitamin B12 supplements has been linked to rare side effects, but these are most often seen in poor quality supplements and vitamin B12 injections. Possible side effects can include:

♦ Dizziness
♦ Headache
♦ Anxiety
♦ Nausea

You should consult your doctor before taking vitaminB12 supplements, as they may cause interactions with other supplements and medications. Although rare, possible interactions can occur with:

Aminosalicylic acid: This can reduce the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12.
Colchicine: This is an anti-inflammatory drug for gout and can interfere with vitamin B12 absorption.
Metformin: A diabetes medication that might reduce your absorption of vitamin B12.
Proton pump inhibitors: These reduce stomach acid and might decrease your absorption of vitamin B12.
Vitamin C supplements: These can reduce the available amount of vitamin B12 in your body. You can avoid this interaction by taking vitamin C two or more hours after taking a vitamin B12 supplement.

The Bottom Line

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that you need to obtain through diet. Dietary restrictions, changes in appetite that come with age, and digestive issues contribute to the high level of vitamin B12 deficiency across the world. Clinically proven vitamin B12 supplements can help you maintain proper levels in the bloodstream to support heart function and overall health.