Blog, Health & Wellness, Vegan and Vegetarian Health

Which Type of B12 Vitamin Should You Be Taking?

Photo by Colin Dunn

Photo by Colin Dunn

Vitamin B12 is essential to the human body, and chances are, even if you are a meat eater, you have a deficiency. I recommend that my clients take a B12 supplement daily, however, if you are a vegan or vegetarian it is even more vital.

Vitamin B12 “helps support adrenal function, helps calm and maintain a healthy nervous system, and is necessary for key metabolic processes”. Signs of deficiency “include fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, numbness, heart palpitations, bleeding gums and mouth sores, nausea, poor appetite and diarrhea”. [Source: Dr. Weil]

Symptoms may present themselves slowly and may not be recognized for some time, and just because you don’t notice them doesn’t mean you are not deficient. That is why it’s better to be safe than sorry, and take a B12 supplement before any symptoms surface.

So now that you have decided to jump on the B12 bandwagon, which one should you take? Currently, there are three types of B12 supplements on the market:

  • Hydroxycobalamin B12: Is not a form normally found in the human body, primarily produced by bacteria but can be converted in the body to useable, coenzyme forms of B12, methylcobalamin and adenysylcobalamin, the only forms able to cross the blood brain barrier.
  • Cyanocobalamin B12: Is the cheapest and most stable form of B12 and has a long shelf life but needs to have the cyanide molecule taken off, so has an extra conversion before being converted to methyl or adenyslcobalamin.
  • Methylcobalamin B12: This is the most natural form of B12 and needs no converting. It is already in its “ready to use” form. Methylcobalamin is the active coenzyme form necessary for any biological activity. It is also the least stable with the shortest shelf life, converting back to hydroxycobalamin if not stored correctly. Methylcobalamin is sometimes referred to as “active B12” as it is in a form ready to be used by the cells.

Source (Metabolics)

Okay, so if you are on information overload take a deep breath. Choosing the right B12 supplement doesn’t have to be difficult.

I recommend taking Methylcobalamin because it is the most natural form and doesn’t need converting. While all of the above are called “Vitamin B12” they are not all the same. Methylcobalamin B12 is the superior form, as it is active and is in a form ready to be used by the cells. Despite this, most doctors in the US still use the form called Cyanocobalamin, even though it requires a higher dosage, and facts about Vitamin B12  show that is does not work for B12 deficiency. In fact,  doctors in Japan and Great Britain use Methylcobalamin nearly exclusively.

So the choice is obvious. Choose a Methylcobalamin B12 supplement, preferably in a liquid or lozenge (absorbed quicker and more efficiently),  and extra brownie points if you get one that includes a full spectrum of B vitamins, including biotin, thiamin, B12, riboflavin and niacin. They don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg either. Many outlets such as iHerb sell them for as little as US$11 for 90 days worth.


Health Coach Jenna



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