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Are Vitamin B-12 Pills Good for Weight Loss?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
Are Vitamin B-12 Pills Good for Weight Loss?
Vitamin B-12 supplements Photo Credit: Eerik/E+/Getty Images

Vitamin B-12 is one of the eight B complex vitamins that's essential for energy production and the health of your central nervous system. If you're deficient in vitamin B-12, your doctor might recommend supplemental pills or injections to get your health back on track. The pills are sometimes included as part of a weight-loss protocol to promote energy and boost your metabolism. While supplemental B-12 might give you more energy if it corrects an underlying deficiency, there's no evidence that extra vitamin B-12 will help you lose weight.

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About Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B-12 is also known as cobalamin. Along with the other B vitamins, it helps you convert the food you eat into fuel. B-12 is found naturally in animal foods, such as fish, dairy, eggs, beef and pork, and some breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin B-12. When you get too little B-12, or your body doesn't absorb it properly, you can become anemic and suffer from fatigue, weakness, numbness, shortness of breath and tingling in the hands and feet.

Most people get enough B-12 through their diet, but some people -- older adults, strict vegetarians and vegans and those who've undergone weight-loss surgery -- are sometimes at risk of deficiency. For these populations, vitamin B-12 pills may help correct the problem so they look and feel better after taking them, but the pills don't cause them to lose weight.

Uses of Vitamin B-12 Supplemental Pills

Your doctor might prescribe vitamin B-12 if you've been diagnosed with pernicious anemia. In this type of anemia, your stomach doesn't produce enough of a substance called intrinsic factor that helps you absorb vitamin B-12 from food. High-dose pills or injections help you get enough vitamin B-12 for normal function.

Sometimes vitamin B-12 is prescribed to lower the amount of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the blood because high levels are a potential risk for heart disease. Some research also supports using supplemental B vitamins, including B-12, to reduce risk of macular degeneration, a serious eye disease, but more research into the effectiveness of B-12 is needed.

Vitamin B-12 and Energy

Vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to long-term problems with cognition, memory, balance and nerve function. A deficiency of the vitamin can also cause weight loss. If your B-12 levels are normal, however, getting more from supplemental pills or injections won't promote weight loss or give you more energy.

Taking too much supplemental vitamin B-12 for a long period of time can cause an imbalance in your body's level of all the B vitamins. B-12 supplements should only be taken under the advisement of a doctor because of their potential to conflict with a number of medicines, including certain antibiotics and medications used to treat diabetes, acid reflux and stomach ulcers.

Food to Maximize B-12 Intake and Lose Weight

If you suspect you're deficient in vitamin B-12, consult with your doctor. You could also increase your intake of foods rich in B-12, such as organ meats, clams and meats, as they contain other vitamins and minerals that offer health benefits.

If you want to lose weight, though, vitamin B-12 pills are not the answer. Instead, eat a whole-foods, portion-controlled diet, and get some regular exercise. A pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, so if you can trim 500 to 1,000 calories from your meals daily, you'll lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Regular cardiovascular exercise and strength training also support weight management more effectively than any kind of supplemental vitamin pill.

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