B12 is often hailed as an easy cure for fatigue and tiredness – just pop a B12 supplement in your mouth every day and you’ll feel better within a week! A quick google search shows hundreds of thousands of webpages discussing the link between vitamin B12 and fatigue. And there’s a pretty good chance that’s how you arrived on this page too!
Misinformation And Bad Science
Unfortunately a lot of these sites aren’t really based on actual science, and just pass on the message they’ve read elsewhere. The link between B12 (aka cobalamin) and fatigue was first suggested more than 60 years ago in 1952, and by now it seems to have passed almost into the realms of indisputable common knowledge. But sadly common knowledge isn’t always right – just like when everyone ‘knew’ that the Sun went around the Earth.
Still, it’s undeniably true that a huge number of people suffering from chronic fatigue have enjoyed dramatic recoveries after taking B12. So what’s going on? Can vitamin B12 help to get rid of your constant tiredness or not?
The answer is a resounding yes! But only if your fatigue is actually caused by vitamin B12 deficiency. Allow me to explain…
The Theory Behind The B12-Fatigue Connection
One of the problems with having low levels of cobalamin in the body is that this compound is essential for DNA synthesis. Red blood cells (the vitally important cells that carry oxygen around your body) tend to synthesize DNA at very high rates. This means that the production and regeneration of red blood cells can be seriously impaired by a lack of B12.
The primary consequence of this is the rather terrifying-sounding megaloblastic anemia. And what’s one of the most common symptoms of anemia? Yep, you guessed it, fatigue! Along with weakness, constipation and a host of other unpleasant signs.
So B12 deficiency definitely can cause fatigue and weakness. If this is what’s causing your fatigue, then grab yourself some supplements from Amazon and bring your B12 levels back up to where they should be. This should cure your symptoms pretty quickly and you’ll be fighting fit again before you know it.
Where The Theory Fails
The problem is that there’s a chance that your fatigue might not actually be caused by cobalamin deficiency. In fact there are loads of possible causes, including all of these:
- High levels of stress
- Cardiovascular disease
- Food allergies
- Endocrine disorders
- Poor sleep
- Hormonal imbalances
What Does The Evidence Say?
There have been several clinical trials that attempted to establish for good whether or not high doses of vitamin B12 could be used to cure fatigue that wasn’t caused by low B12. None of them found any statistically significant link, and the results were more or less the same regardless of whether the test subjects were given B12 or a placebo.
This is obviously a shame, as a one-size-fits-all cure for fatigue would have been wonderful, but the science just isn’t there to back it up. And waiting for your symptoms to be sorted out by taking extra B12 could be a waste of valuable time – what if the cause is something more sinister that needs to be diagnosed as quickly as possible?
The negative results never made the headlines beyond the medical journals, and so a potentially dangerous message has been allowed to spread unchecked.
Just to be absolutely clear: if your fatigue is caused by a lack of vitamin B12, then B12 supplements should definitely help! Hooray! If the cause is something else, I’m afraid there’s no evidence that taking B12 will restore your energy levels.
How Do I Know If I Have B12 Deficiency Or Something Else?
There are lots of other symptoms to keep an eye out for (see this link), but the only way to be absolutely certain that you’re deficient in B12 is to see a doctor and get your blood levels checked. Far more people suffer from B12 deficiency than most people realize, especially among vegetarians, vegans and the over-50s.
If you don’t eat meat, please check out our dedicated article about Vegan B12.
Should I Take B12 Supplements?
A lot of people choose to supplement their B12 intake regardless. This should prevent vitamin B12 deficiency in future, so at least you’ll never experience fatigue because of that. It’s a healthy choice in general anyway, because if you’re not getting enough cobalamin in your diet, life will become a whole lot less fun.
If you do discover that the cause of your problems is B12 deficiency, or you want to take supplements just to be on the safe side, we always recommend choosing a supplement that contains the bioavailable form of B12 known as methylcobalamin. Check out our Methylcobalamin vs Cyanocobalamin page to see why.
We’ve also gathered together a selection of some of the very best supplements on our Recommended B12 Supplements page. And they’re all just a quick click away on Amazon!
From top to bottom, images are courtesy of graur codrin, dream designs, Ambro, and stockimages, all at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.