History and Characteristics

Vitamin 3-12 is a crystalline red substance referred to as the red vitamin. It is unique in that cobalt, essential for longevity, is found in the vitamin: it is the only vitamin that contains essential mineral elements. Vitamin B-12 is water- and alcohol-soluble. It is unstable in hot alkaline or acidic solutions, heat, light and oxidation.

Vitamin B-12 is made by bacteria in the oceans and lakes and is found in the intestines of mammals. A small amount is manufactured in the human intestinal tract but is immediately used in that part of the body and is not dispensed to other needed areas.

Vitamin B-12 is probably one of the least assimilable vitamins because it is dependent upon two gastric secretions found in the stomach—hydrochloric acid and the intrinsic factor. The intrinsic factor, especially, is of the utmost importance in the absorption of vitamin B-12. The intrinsic factor (a mucoprotein enzyme) is essential to bind vitamin B-12 with calcium to make the vitamin assimilable: it coats and protects the vitamin B-12 until it reaches the small intestine, from where it goes to the liver and bloodstream.

But many people's diets are so lacking that the intrinsic factor may be only partially available. Furthermore, people who have had stomach surgery or prolonged deficiencies of iron may damage or atrophy the secretion glands of this mucoprotein, thereby making any vitamin B-12 supplement given orally unassimilable. Ninety per cent of patients with pernicious anemia have also been found to have antibodies against the stomach cells that produce the intrinsic factor. In such cases oral administration of vitamin B-12 will do little good: instead, injections of vitamin B-12 directly into the bloodstream must be given.

After being absorbed through the intricate balance of the stomach juices and other needed vitamins, vitamin B-12 is bound to serum protein known as globulins and moved through the bloodstream to various bodily tissue. It is needed for normal metabolism of nerve tissue, carbohydrates, pro teins and fats. It is related in activity to four amino acids, vitamin C and pantothenic acid. Small amounts of vitamin B-12 are found in the liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, testes, brain, blood and bone marrow. What is not used is excreted in the urine.

Allies: Vitamin B-12 is most effective taken with the entire vitamin B complex, especially cholin, folic acid and inositol. There is a close relationship between vitamin B-12 and folic acid. If one of those vitamins is lacking, ailments may ensue. Together the two vitamins aid in synthesis of cholin. Vitamin B-12 also converts folic acid to folinic acid. Another primary ally is vitamin C. And vitamin A, potassium and sodium increase the effectiveness of vitamin B-12.

Antagonists: Vitamin B's effectiveness is diminished by a prolonged deficiency of iron, oral contraceptives, stress situations (such as pregnancy) and vegetarianism, if all animal and dairy products are avoided.


Recommended Dietary Allowance: Infants 0-1/6 yrs. 1.0 meg. 1/6-1/2 yrs. 1.5 meg. 1/2-2 yrs. 2.0 meg.

Children 2-3 yrs. 2.5 meg. 3-4 yrs, 3.0 meg. 4-8 yrs.

Pregnant Women 8.0 meg.

Lactating Women 6.0 meg.

Therapeutic Dose: Under a physician's guidance 50 to 100 micrograms are recommended. Because of the difficulties involved with assimilating vitamin B-12, such dosages are usually given by injection rather than by mouth.

Megadose: Pernicious anemia patients have been given vitamin B-12 orally in amounts of from 250 to 400 micrograms daily to keep the disease in remission.


No toxicity level is indicated. Vitamin B-12 is water-soluble; therefore, any unwanted vitamin is excreted through the urine. No cases of vitamin B-12 toxicity have ever been recorded.

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