Vitamin B12 injections have been used for decades as a safe and effective treatment for B12 deficiency.
And because of its direct pathway to the bloodstream the injection has been the preferred method of treatment by physicians and clinicians.
This preference is in part due to the fact that most B12 deficiencies are caused by conditions in which the digestive tract cannot properly absorb B12 from foods.
Since vitamin B12 injections are administered into the muscle (intramuscular) or under the skin (subcutaneous) they bypass the faulty digestive tract and deliver replenishing levels of B12 directly to the bloodstream.
This direct pathway provides high absorption rates and helps to expedite the replenishment and healing process.
Depending on the causes and severity of deficiency, vitamin B12 injection schedules typically start with high dose loading for the first two weeks and are followed by monthly maintenance shots.
Though other methods of B12 replenishment such as oral and sublingual supplements are available and can be effective, the effectiveness of vitamin B12 injections is undisputed.
In addition to its uses for treatment of B12 deficiency, vitamin B12 injections have seen an increased popularity in use for weight loss and energy boosts.
There are a growing number of weight loss clinics that offer B12 injections to “enhance” their weight loss program.
Over the last few years some B12 shots have also been expanded to include other vitamins, amino acids and minerals.
Though there are many claims that B12 injections increase energy levels as well as metabolism, there is no solid evidence that excess B12 can produce these effects.
The role of vitamin B12 in metabolism is well established and so the claims have a basis in fact, but the facts have been distorted through marketing.
Vitamin B12 is in fact needed to facilitate the production of energy in the body, but it is through the production of enzymes that help facilitate chemical reactions.
In other words B12 is a co-factor or helper in a multi-step process of chemical reactions, not a self contained “energy pack”.
While it is clear that patients with B12 deficiency generally experience marked increases in energy after B12 injections, these results remain unproven in otherwise healthy persons.
Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body, DNA synthesis, neurologic and nervous system function and is involved in the metabolism of virtually every cell in the body.
If the body is deficient of this vital vitamin, symptoms such as fatigue appear because the organs are not getting the oxygen and nutrients needed for proper function.
Some symptoms such as fatigue, or even neurologic and psychiatric symptoms can appear when B12 levels are only slightly lower than normal.
It is likely that reports of energy boosts originate from patients who have suffered vitamin B12 deficiencies.
An example of this condition may be a vegan who is otherwise healthy but has low levels of B12 due to the lack of animal products in the diet.
Upon treatment and subsequent B12 replenishment, proper organ function is restored and energy levels are increased.
However, if the bodies B12 levels are already adequate, taking extra amounts of B12 will not increase the production of energy.
And because vitamin B12 is water-soluble the extra vitamins are flushed out of the system and are therefore unusable to the body.
Because the extra B12 is flushed, the body can easily handle huge dosages with little risk of overdose.
However, there are a number of drug interactions and potential side effects that can occur with vitamin B12 injections.
Side effects are generally mild such as pain and redness at the injection site, mild diarrhea, or itching.
However, some rare but serious side effects may occur such as irregular heartbeat, chest pain or allergic reactions such rash, itching and swelling or severe dizziness.
It is important to let your doctor know of any prescription or over-the-counter medications or vitamins that you are taking.
Patients should also beware of vitamin B12 injections or supplements where other vitamins are added including B vitamins.
Large doses of B6 (more than 100mg per day) can cause nerve damage in the legs and arms.
Despite the popularity of the B12 injections, other forms of supplementation can also be effective.
In addition to injections, vitamin B12 supplements are available in oral pills, sublingual pills and strips, and intranasal spray.
Studies dating back to the 1970’s show that oral supplementation in large dosages can be just as effective as the B12 injections including treatment of patients with absorption conditions.
The key to effective B12 replenishment through oral supplements is in dosages greater than 500mg.
These mega-doses of B12 are thought to be absorbed “en masse” through an alternative pathway and have been proven effective in cases of B12 deficiency, including patients with absorption problems.
Are Vitamin B12 Injections Right For You?
In summary, vitamin B12 injections are a trusted, effective and generally safe method for the treatment of B12 deficiency and have been used and preferred by physicians for decades.
If you have B12 deficiency, the effectiveness of vitamin B12 injections is undisputed.
However, there are other proven supplements and therefore viable options for B12 replenishment.
Adequate levels of vitamin B12 are crucial for production of red blood cells, neurological and nervous system function.
But most people get plenty of B12 from their diet of animal products such as meat, dairy and seafood. If you’re not deficient in B12 levels, you are not likely to see energy boosts.
And if you are hoping to lose weight through vitamin B12 injections, resist the temptations of a quick and easy solution.
Instead, work on living a healthier lifestyle that includes healthier foods and physical activity.
There is no solid evidence vitamin B12 injections will boost energy or promote weight loss, but the benefits of a healthy lifestyle are real and lasting.