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What's the deal with vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a key player in several of our body’s functions. This includes our memory and concentration, making red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body, energy production, synthesis and repair of DNA, protecting our vision, and keeping the nerves in the body including, brain cells, healthy. B12 is also vital to the development of a health brain and spinal cord in a developing baby. Low levels of vitamin B12 in our body can cause anaemia, memory impairment, poor concentration, tiredness, changes in our mood, feeling weak, and headaches. I’m sure you can understand why this vitamin is considered and essential micronutrient.

Vitamin B12 is produced by microorganisms and is one of the vitamins that humans can only obtain from dietary sources. Since we rely mainly on dietary sources for our B12, those with difficulty absorbing B12 or who have a diet low in B12, such as vegans and vegetarians, are at higher risk of B12 deficiency. With climate change and other factors over the last few decades, our food supply is frequently disrupted and have been decreasing in nutrient content. As a result, one of the most common global problems are vitamin deficiencies.

Vitamin B12 and brain health

Low Vitamin B12 levels have also been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. A study using vitamin B12 supplements found that cognition only improved in participants who had a B12 deficiency and did not improve symptoms of those who had a normal B12.

Vitamin B12 and mental health

Vitamin B12, along with calcium, B6, vitamin D, zinc, and magnesium are often used in conjunction with antidepressant treatment for depression and other mood disorders. In several studies looking at western dietary patterns high in processed foods, there was increased prevalence of depression. This is thought to be due in part to overconsumption of sugary drinks, processed meats, refined sugars, and high fat foods and snacks. Several studies also looked at Japanese and Mediterranean diet patterns which were higher in unprocessed meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, and legumes and found that that was reduced risk of depression. In one experimental study participants were asked to trial a vegan diet for 18 weeks to assess its impact on emotional wellbeing and productivity. At the end of the study participants reports an improvement in their depression, anxiety, and productivity. Improving your diet and lifestyle is seen as a practical and non-stigmatized strategy for prevention and treatment for depression.

Vitamin B12 and Heart health

One studied showed a correlation between levels of a protein called homocysteine and risk of heart disease. The study demonstrated that B12 and B6, also known as folate, when used together lowered the levels of homocysteine in the blood. This in theory could lead to a lower risk of heart disease.

Vitamin B12 and Cancer Risk

It is thought that deficiency of B12 and B6 may increase the risk of developing some cancers as they are important parts of DNA synthesis and repair. To support this theory, there was a small study done on women in Hawaii that showed that B vitamins may possible protect against development of cervical cancer.

Where can I get B12?

Here is a table with some foods that are a high in B12 including plant based options. You can also get vitamin B12 supplements or try our Hoffi powder which contains wheatgrass, a food rich in B12.

Food High in B12:



Foods from animals


Acai berry



Fortified cereals



Fish (Mackerel, Sardines)

Fortified non-dairy milks




Yeast extract






Bitter gourd






Butternut squash

Animal liver and kidney



Are you looking to make healthier choices? Hoffi can help!


Agarwal U, Mishra S, Xu J, Levin S, Gonzales J, Barnard ND: A multicenter randomized controlled trial of a nutrition intervention program in a multiethnic adult population in the corporate setting reduces depression and anxiety and improves quality of life: the GEICO study. Am J Health Promot 2015;29:245-254.

Lang UE, Beglinger C, Schweinfurth N, Walter M, Borgwardt S. Nutritional aspects of depression. Cell Physiol Biochem. 2015;37(3):1029-43. doi: 10.1159/000430229. Epub 2015 Sep 25. PMID: 26402520.

Moore E, Mander A, Ames D, Carne R, Sanders K, Watters D. Cognitive impairment and vitamin B12: a review. Int Psychogeriatr. 2012 Apr;24(4):541-56. doi: 10.1017/S1041610211002511. Epub 2012 Jan 6. PMID: 22221769.

Romain M, Sviri S, Linton DM, Stav I, van Heerden PV. The role of Vitamin B12 in the critically ill--a review. Anaesth Intensive Care. 2016 Jul;44(4):447-52. doi: 10.1177/0310057X1604400410. PMID: 27456173.

Ryan-Harshman M, Aldoori W. Vitamin B12 and health. Can Fam Physician. 2008 Apr;54(4):536-41. PMID: 18411381; PMCID: PMC2294088.

Shipton MJ, Thachil J. Vitamin B12 deficiency - A 21st century perspective . Clin Med (Lond). 2015 Apr;15(2):145-50. doi: 10.7861/clinmedicine.15-2-145. PMID: 25824066; PMCID: PMC4953733.

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