B12 shots seem to be all the rage. Celebrities and wellness influencers swear by using regular B12 injections to boost energy and mood, fight fatigue, and even brighten their skin. But are these claims legitimate?
In this article, we describe what B12 injections are, why they are needed for some people, and why most people don’t.
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that is involved in a ton of important bodily functions. For example, you need this vitamin for your nervous system and red blood cells to work properly.
B12 is found in many foods: fish and shellfish, meat, poultry, yogurt, eggs, etc. But even though you can get B12 from many foods, it is quite common have low levels of B12.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION: People with lower B12 levels 200 picograms per milliliter (pg / mL) are considered to have a disability. A B12 level greater than 300 pg / mL is considered normal.
Certain factors increase your risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency, including:
- restrictive diets low in B12
- autoimmune diseases and certain other health problems
- 60 years or older
- certain drugs (such as metformin and Prilosec)
- gastrointestinal surgery
Although it is rare, severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to irreversible damage to your nervous system. Fortunately, B12 deficiency and suboptimal B12 levels can be treated with dietary changes and high dose supplements or injections.
Many doctors choose to treat B12 deficiency with B12 injections because the injections completely bypass the gastrointestinal tract. This is important for increasing B12 levels in people who cannot properly absorb B12 from foods or supplements.
However, research suggests that high-dose oral B12 supplements work as well as B12 injections in increasing B12 levels in people with deficiency. Additionally, B12 injections are generally more expensive than supplements.
In fact, a Study 2019 found that sublingual B12 supplements (a form of supplement that you place under your tongue and let dissolve) were more effective than B12 injections at increasing B12 levels. So if you’re looking for a first-line treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency, supplements are probably the way to go.
B12 injections are associated with several benefits. However, these benefits are related to treating low B12 levels with B12 injections. There is no evidence that B12 injections are helpful for people who already have optimal B12 levels.
Effective in increasing low B12 levels
B12 injections are prescribed for people who have low levels of B12.
If your doctor suspects that you have low B12 levels, they will recommend lab tests to be sure. Depending on your results, they may recommend high dose oral B12 supplements or B12 injections.
Improves B12 Deficiency Symptoms
A B12 deficiency or a low level of B12 is accompanied by certain symptoms:
- swollen tongue
- Heart palpitations
- numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- mood swings
If you are deficient in B12, increasing your B12 levels (with supplements or B12 injections) may help you feel better over time.
But if your levels are already good, B12 injections will not give you any additional benefit. Your body regulates the levels of B12 in your blood, so you won’t be building up a reserve. You will get rid of any excess B12 with your urine.
tl; dr: Unless you are lacking in B12, B12 injections won’t do much for you.
B12 supplements and injections are considered safe. Even in high doses, B12 supplements and injections are not linked to dangerous side effects.
However, B12 can lead to a bit milder Side effects, such as diarrhea and swelling. B12 injections could also interact with certain medications. This is why it is important to discuss your medical history, including current medications, with your doctor before using a supplement.
B12 injections can also be a bit painful, especially for people without a lot of body fat.
B12 injections should be prescribed by a healthcare practitioner only as a way to treat low B12 levels. (Remember, there is no evidence that B12 injections benefit people who have optimal B12 levels.)
If you think your vitamin B12 levels are low, ask a healthcare professional for a blood test. Depending on your B12 levels, they may recommend oral supplements or B12 injections.
If needed, you will usually be given B12 injections over the course of several months. It is not a unique thing.
Usually a healthcare professional will inject B12 into your muscle. But your doctor may give you the B12 injections or a friend or family member may help you. Either way, you will need a prescription for the B12 injections.
Message of public interest : Beware if a healthcare professional recommends B12 injections without first assessing your B12 levels.
Your body needs a constant flow of B12 to function properly. That is why you need to make sure you are eating a variety of foods rich in vitamin B12.
The following foods are high in B12:
- organ meats (like liver)
- shellfish (such as clams and oysters)
- fish (such as sardines and salmon)
- meat and poultry
- dairy products (like yogurt)
- fortified foods (such as non-dairy milks and cereals)
- nutritional yeast with added B12
If you are following a well-balanced diet, you probably have enough B12. But the only way to know if you have healthy B12 levels is to see a healthcare professional for a blood test.
FOR YOUR INFORMATION: Some people need supplements for a variety of reasons. If you have any questions about vitamin B12 in your diet or about vitamin B12 supplements, talk to a qualified healthcare professional such as a dietitian or doctor.
B12 does a lot for your body, so getting enough of it in your diet is very important.
Some people may need vitamin B12 supplements or injections if their diet does not contain enough vitamin B12 or if they have difficulty absorbing this nutrient from food.
While B12 injections are suitable for people who are weak or deficient in this vitamin, there is no evidence that B12 injections provide any benefit to people with optimal B12 levels.