Doctor with Multivitamin

Vitamin B12 in Multivitamins

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Multivitamins are easy to get hold of and stocked in most supermarkets and every health store. They’re inexpensive compared to lots of other health supplements and you can find multivitamins with either the methylcobalamin or cyanocobalamin forms of B12, depending on your preference.

You’ll find vitamin B12 in almost every single multivatimin on the market. But the question is, is a multivitamin enough? Or do you need other sources of vitamin B12 as well? If you need more, is there any point taking a multivitamin at all?

Doctor with MultivitaminIs A Multivitamin Enough?
Most people can get all the vitamin B12 they need from their diets. The majority of the exceptions are vegetarians, vegans and the elderly.

Non-meat eaters often suffer from B12 deficiency because the vitamin is most readily found in animal products. The amount of B12 in the average multivitamin won’t always provide enough B12 for vegetarians/vegans to live a completely healthy lifestyle, but some people might need a bit more.

A lot of over-50s can no longer absorb dietary B12 into the bloodstream as well as younger people, and the problem tends to get worse as you get older. For this reason, a dedicated B12 supplement is normally recommended once you hit 50 – a multivitamin generally won’t provide enough B12 for someone with impaired absorption.

Can I Take Too Much B12?
Probably not. B12 has exceptionally low toxicity, and scientific studies have been carried out where subjects took huge amounts of B12 for months or even years at a time with no ill effects.

As the dangers are so minimal, many people who wouldn’t be considered high risk for B12 deficiency choose to supplement their B12 intake just to be sure. Generally it’s a lot safer to take more vitamin B12 than less.

You can read more about this on our Vitamin B12 Overdose and Side Effects page.
Is Getting B12 From a Multivitamin Safe?
Yes. There are no negative interactions between vitamin B12 and any of the other common ingredients in multivitamins, so you don’t have to worry about this.

B12 can react negatively with certain medications, but that’s an entirely separate issue. (If you want to know more, we’ve written an article about exactly this – Interactions Of B12 With Medication.

Warning Danger SignThe Safety Exception
There’s always an exception! As mentioned above, vitamin B12 has very low toxicity. But sadly not all vitamins are so benign in large quantities. The end result of this is that if you try to give yourself a high dosage of B12 only using multivitamins, you could well do some serious damage by overdosing on a completely different vitamin.

For example, one of the most common causes of fatal poisoning in children under 6 is accidental iron overdose. Taking too much Vitamin A over an extended period can increase the risk of osteoporosis in old age. There are plenty of other examples too.

If you need to take a large amount of vitamin B12, dedicated B12 supplements are a much better and much safer way to do this. If you’re just supplementing your normal diet and don’t fall into a high risk category for B12 deficiency, then a multivitamin should be absolutely fine.

Can Multivitamins Treat My B12 Deficiency?
If a doctor or other health professional tells you that your B12 levels are low and suggests you start supplementing your intake, then a multivitamin will most likely not be enough.

Initital treatment for B12 deficiency normally involves regular high dose oral or high dose sublingual B12 supplements. Sometimes prescription shots will be necessary.

The Folic Acid Connection
Folic acid (also called folate or vitamin B9) is another important B-vitamin that you’ll find in almost all multivitamins. Taking too much B12 can mask the symptoms of vitamin B9 deficiency, and the converse is also true. Some important internal processes also require both vitamins. You can find out more here if you’re interested.

Many B12 supplements (like these vegan tablets) also contain lots of folate, but if you can get all the B9 and B12 you need from a multivit, then that’s just one less thing to worry about.

Other Benefits Of Multivitamins
A multivitamin will of course provide you with far more than just vitamin B12. Your body needs adequate levels of all vitamins and minerals if it’s to function properly, so a multivitamin is generally considered a good idea for anyone wanting to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

It is however true that a well-balanced, healthy diet will negate the need for a multivitamin. But taking a multivit does mean that you don’t have to worry so much about your dietary intake of various micronutrients.

People take multivitamins for many different reasons, and they are very unlikely to do you any harm. So please don’t hesitate to take a multivit if you think it would benefit you, but do be aware that if you have certain existing medical conditions, you may not be able to rely entirely on multivitamins for your B12 intake.Detective Reading

Further Reading


From top to bottom, images are courtesy of marin, Stuart Miles, jscreationzs, all at www.freedigitalphotos.net.

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