What Is Methylcobalamin And Why Do You Need It?
When people ask me ‘What is methylcobalamin?’ and I tell them the answer, a light seems to go on in their minds!
‘Aaah…why didn’t you say it was a vitamin?’ is usually the next thing they say to me.
Methylcobalamin is actually vitamin B12 and it bears a lot of responsibility for a single vitamin!
It was discovered in 1849 after scientists observed a ‘mysterious nutrient in animal liver that could treat pernicious anemia’. Like all B group vitamins, it is water-soluble and found in the highest concentrations in organ meats, beef, pork, eggs, seafood, milk, and certain fortified foods.
Vitamin B12 has an incredibly complex chemical structure, being the largest of all the vitamins and containing the metal cobalt (now you can understand why it’s got that long name beginning with m!)
While many people view all B Vitamins, including this one, as simply energy-boosters, the reality is a little more complex.
Its main importance lies in the fact that it is required for the very building blocks of human life. It plays a vital role in neurological health, is essential for the preservation and purity of DNA, is needed in red blood cell formation, and is critical to the healthy growth of babies. This is in addition to its role in producing cellular energy.
In fact, methylcobalamin is so important that the liver stores enough to last up to 10 years. This is why deficiency is uncommon. However, it also helps explain why deficiency is extremely problematic, causing irreversible damage to the nervous system.
Certain groups are at particular risk of methylcobalamin deficiency, as you will see below.
What Is Methylcobalamin’s Value To Health?
As mentioned, methylcobalamin is a vital component of health – but many of its benefits work in the ‘background’, almost unseen. It may only really be noticed when deficiencies occur and the associated problems take root, but its value is uncontested.
Below is a summary of the long list of health benefits provided by vitamin B12:
→ For treating anemia
Pernicious anemia occurs when there’s insufficient B12 available to make healthy red blood cells, though this is usually a symptom of other inflammatory, infective or autoimmune processes. High doses of B12 - given via injection - are used to treat pernicious anemia, once the cause has been established.
→ For lowering homocysteine levels
Vitamin B12 and folate are required to ‘recycle’ homocysteine - an inflammatory amino acid. Elevated homocysteine levels are associated with heart disease, stroke, and mood disorders such as depression, as well as chromosomal defects. B12 supplementation (in combination with folate) is proven to lower these levels.
→ To maintain the integrity of DNA
Vitamin B12 is a ‘guardian’ of DNA, ensuring that it’s transcribed and replicated correctly. A deficiency has been linked to genetic mutations and breast cancer.
→ For healthy babies
Vitamin B12 is essential for preventing neural tube defects. Some studies have shown that mothers with higher B12 levels have babies with lower risks of developing certain childhood cancers, such as leukemia.
→ For nervous system health
Vitamin B12 is needed to maintain healthy myelin - the protective sheath around spinal nerves - as well as for the creation of neurotransmitters.
→ For preventing neurological disease
Low levels of B12 are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
→ For depression and anxiety
B12 and folate deficiencies appear more commonly in people with depression. This may cause or contribute to high levels of homocysteine, which appears to exacerbate mood disorders. While B12 is confirmed to lower homocysteine, its benefit for mental health is still being studied.
→ For cardiovascular health
B12 is vital for cardiovascular protection, thanks to its homocysteine-lowering-effect (a prime risk factor for heart disease).
→ For possible treatment of Hepatitis C
B12 may help those with Hepatitis C, as at least one study says that it appears to inhibit viral replication at high doses.
→ For the prevention of osteoporosis
Low bone density has been linked to vitamin B12 deficiency, though it’s not clear if B12 is a viable treatment for the disease.
→ For cancer prevention
Thanks to its effects on homocysteine, plus the role it plays in preserving the integrity of DNA, B12 has been studied as a potential cancer preventative supplement. Early research suggests a relationship between low B12 levels and increased breast cancer risk.
What Is Methylcobalamin’s Main Role In Athletic Greens?
Methylcobalamin is an essential component of Athletic Greens because there are certain groups of people for whom the risk of deficiency is high, despite the body’s ability to store 10-years supply of it.
Either obtaining – or absorbing – enough of this precious vitamin can be a challenge for some people and this is why it’s included in Athletic Greens.
People at risk of B-12 deficiency include:
Vegetarians or vegans, for whom absorption from non-meat sources can be difficult
Those with inflammatory stomach disease and/or infection, such as Helicobacter pylori
Those with any dysfunction of the stomach, small intestine, or pancreas
People who have experienced long-term antacid use
Those aged over 60 (as stomach acid naturally decreases with age)
Those with any condition that suppresses the production of stomach acid
Those who take certain medications (such as some diabetes drugs)
For these people, supplementing is a great option…and Athletics Greens contains the ideal qualities and amounts of vitamin B12 to benefit health, in combination with other supplements.
What Is A Safe And Effective Methylcobalamin Dose?
500 mcg daily, with meals, is usually enough to normalize B12 deficiencies in adults. However, some conditions and cases require much higher doses or injections that bypass the digestive system.
No toxic level has been established for B12 and it’s generally well tolerated even at high doses.
Some medications such as antacids and anaesthetics may inhibit the absorption of B12 - especially with long-term use.
Who Should Supplement With Methylcobalamin?
Being an essential component of cellular and neurological health, anyone at risk of methylcobalamin deficiency (through malabsorption) may benefit from supplementing with it.
The fact that it is water soluble and safe even at high doses makes this important vitamin even more attractive.
It is well-established through scientific study that vitamin B12 supports the prevention of birth defects, protection of the nervous system, treatment of anemia, and lowering of homocysteine levels.
Further research is required to prove its effectiveness for mood disorders, hepatitis C, osteoporosis, and cancer prevention.
We have not focused greatly here on the role of methylcobalamin in boosting energy, which is probably its most popular use as a supplement.
However, it is especially popular amongst women during pregnancy, and B12 injections are increasingly being administered to athletes and celebrities as a sure-fire way to boost energy.
Indeed, B12 has the ability to boost energy and assist with acute fatigue fairly quickly and can help people recover faster from anemia, as low B12 levels often accompany low iron levels.
Within Athletic Greens, methylcobalamin works well with folate for preventing defects in unborn babies. It is also well-complemented by grapeseed extract and CoQ10 for cardiovascualr health, and by calcium, manganese, phosphorus and magnesium for bone health and preventing osteoporosis.
Athletic Greens includes many supplements that enhance absorption of other nutrients. This is an especially useful feature for people suffering from malabsorption of vitamin B12. You can get all the things you need in a single supplement.