Health/ Veganism

To Inject or Not To Inject?

You may have heard that B12 injections are the (not so new) energy and metabolism booster for vegans and carnivores alike.  Promises of weight loss and greater athletic performance are also in the mix, which of course is music to most people’s ears.  But is it all it’s cracked up to be and is it worth the money?  Let’s look at some facts as well as some here say and then you can decide for yourself.

A Quick Review: Who Could Become Deficient and Why?

Allow me first to remind you that B12, like all vitamins and minerals is essential but is unique in that it’s not always easy to find in food sources for Vegans.  That’s because it’s found primarily in animal-based foods.  It’s also a problem for anyone over 50, breast-fed infants whose mother consumes a vegan diet as well as those who have absorption issues due to stomach surgery, atrophic gastritis or other intestinal disorders or taking certain medications (such as Prilosec, Prevacid, Tagament or Pepsid). Vegan’s who are pregnant are especially susceptible to developing a deficiency since her own B12 stores crosses the placenta and is given to the baby, leaving the mother high and dry unless she is ever vigilant to replace the deficit.  For adults, the RDA is 2.4mcg, Pregnancy is 2.6mcg and Lactation is 2.8mcg.  Developing a deficiency is NOT what you want.  It could mean fatigue, depression, anemia and irreversible nerve damage.

There are several reasons why a person might choose B12 injections rather than a capsule or oral spray.  

  1. They lack Intrinsic Factor:  A protein made in the stomach that aids in the absorption of B12.
  2. They have a gastrointestinal disorder or have undergone gastric by-pass surgery making it difficult to rely on the gut for B12 absorption and so need to bypass that process altogether.
  3. They believe it will give them an energy and metabolism boost or will increase athletic performance while other supplement forms will not.

Injections: Some facts and comparisons

  1. According to a study done by Sports Medicine Journal, when B-complex vitamins are taken individually or in combination at 35-45% of the RDA, a decreased endurance capacity may result in as little as a few weeks.  Subsequently, correcting this deficit will in turn correct a lack of endurance and may even give you the feeling of an energy boost.  But that energy boost and increase in athletic performance does not happen to those of us that already have sufficient stores according to the research currently out there. (That being said, if you read enough online as to the quoted consumer experience with injections, you would see that a lot of people feel more energetic for having done this, so take that for what it’s worth.)
  2. B12 is injected into muscle which at least initially involves a health practitioner.
  3. If you purchase them online the price is anywhere from $25.00/vial to perhaps $8.99/vial if you are willing to buy a lot all at once.  Having a health practitioner do it for you is an additional expense.
  4. There are two different forms of B12, Cyanocobalimin and Methycobalamin.  The body has to convert the former into its active form which is the latter so injections are almost always come as Methycobalamin, which helpful for those whose body can’t do this.
  5. It is virtually impossible to overdose on B12 since the colon takes care of any excess so there are not standards set for how many injections you should administer.  The general rec. seems to be about 1 per week.

Are there other options when B12 food is scarce or you don’t want to pay for injections? 

Yes.  You can take an oral multi-vitamin or if you can’t rely on your stomach to help in the process, then consider the fact that B12 absorption actually begins in the mouth and then finishes in the stomach.  Oral sprays are available in the active form and are considerably cheaper than injections.  I’ve already mentioned the cost of injections but compare that to an oral spray which when taken once a day would give you about 175 days worth for about $20.00.

Vitamins and minerals always do their job much better when they come to our body through food.  Supplements can be very helpful when your diet isn’t all that it should be or when you’re body needs the extra support.  But when choosing a supplement, make sure you’re not getting sucked into the latest fad and end up paying for something that you don’t actually need.

by Melissa Sanborn of Nutritional Brands, PureVegan


  1. B12 Facts Sheet.  The Office of Dietary Supplement at the National Institute of Health
  2. Vitamin and mineral status: effects on physical performance  Nutrition 2004 Jul-Aug(7-8): 632-44
  3. Vitamins and minerals for endurance training: Food for running or faddish claims?  Sports Medicine 1985 May-Jun; 2(3): 175-97

Photo credit: dzain via BigStock

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