- Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that aids in the formation of red blood cells while stimulating DNA synthesis and neurologic function.
- Some weight loss professionals are implementing vitamin B12 injections into their programs, claiming it can boost energy levels and metabolic rates.
- Unfortunately, there’s no evidence to suggest that this is true, unless the person undergoing injections has an established vitamin B12 deficiency.
Welcome to 2018, where the right injection will apparently smooth away all your wrinkles, cure your migraine headaches and maybe even help you shed those stubborn extra pounds. Yep, you read that right. These days, some experts claim that getting a shot of the naturally occurring vitamin B12 a few times a month will help the body melt away excess fat.
But like any weight loss promise besides those achieved through good, old-fashioned diet and exercise, one needs to take these claims with a grain, or two, of salt.
B12 is just one of dozens of fad injectables that are said to help melt away fat. A few years ago, the controversial HCG diet — which relied on hormone-heavy human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) injections — claimed to spur weight loss by allowing dieters to stay full on just 500 calories a day. But a long list of risks and side effects soon put the HCG diet out of fashion.
Is B12 just another scammy fad injection or something worth looking into? Here’s a hint: some doctors call it’s alleged efficacy an “old wives’ tale.”
» If you are trying to lose stubborn excess fat, there are many non-invasive treatment options available. Use our virtual consultation tool to speak with a cosmetic doctor and determine the ideal solution for you.
What Is Vitamin B12 and Why Does It Matter?
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s discuss vitamin B12 and how it affects our bodies.
Found naturally in tons of foods, in particular meat, fish and dairy products, vitamin B12 is clearly important to our overall health. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this water-soluble vitamin works to maintain the body’s nerve and blood cell function and helps it produce DNA.
What’s more, the NIH points to research showing how the vitamin helps to prevent and treat dementia, further suggesting that vitamin B12 injections are good for patients who have megaloblastic anemia or pernicious anemia — conditions that prevent the absorption of certain vitamins. However, vitamin B12 injections are generally only prescribed for these purposes and for those who have a vitamin deficiency.
There are a few misconceptions surrounding B12 that need to be debunked. Claims of successful B12 shots for weight loss and increased energy are not grounded in scientific fact. What’s more, despite claims that vitamin B12 shots can reduce blood levels and diminish the likelihood of heart disease, there’s simply no evidence to back it up.
What is important to note, though, is that a lack of vitamin B12 can trigger depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory and nerve problems. Those who have medical conditions that prevent the body from properly absorbing the vitamin, such as Crohn’s disease, may be prescribed vitamin B12 shots.
The daily recommended amount of vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms, and levels vary widely based on diet and medicinal interactions. Famously, the diabetes drug Metformin is known to trigger B12 deficiency. For these reasons, taking any sort of B12 beyond the recommended daily amount — whether through shots, oral supplements or food — should be monitored by a doctor.
What About Weight Loss?
Some weight loss clinics have started to implement vitamin B12 injections into their programs, claiming that it increases energy and boosts the metabolism. However, many experts, including those at the Mayo Clinic, warn that there’s simply no evidence to suggest injecting B12 into the bloodstream will melt away any unwanted pounds.
If your weight loss program claims that B12 vitamin shots will make reaching a healthy weight easier, your malarkey detector should be buzzing.
The reason some people tout these intramuscular injections for weight management is because they believe the vitamin compounds better break down fat during the metabolic process. Certain injection formulas also include other medications and supplements in addition to natural or synthetic B12, such as methionine, inositol, choline or L-Carnitine. Each of these additives is said to provide its own particular benefits.
Typically, these injections claim to include “lipotropic” compounds (sometimes billed as lipotropic injections or lipo-B injections), which are said to help the body better process fats. Cyanocobalamin (a synthetic form of vitamin B 12) and methylcobalamin are the two most common types of liquid B12 for injections.
Interestingly, the NIH says that two known negative side effects of B12 deficiency are weight loss and loss of appetite. In other words, those with low levels of B12 are more likely to shed weight than those with higher levels.
The One Exception to the Rule
Experts believe the reason why proponents of B12 for weight loss are becoming increasingly common is because there are, indeed, some instances where B12 does provide an energy boost and aid in weight loss. However, this occurs almost exclusively in patients who have corrected a vitamin B12 deficiency.
A deficiency compromises the body’s ability to maintain energy. So if you go from being highly deficient — which causes extreme fatigue and weakness — to having proper B12 levels, there’s a good chance you’ll experience an energy boost when your deficiency is corrected. It’s believed that somewhere between 1.5 percent and 15 percent of the population suffers from B12 deficiency.
In short, studies show that unless the subject suffers from a deficiency, vitamin B12 has no effect on physical performance.
How It Works
Like all vitamins, B12 is usually absorbed into the body through the gastrointestinal tract. When we consume vitamins the old-fashioned way, through food and drink, the stomach acid breaks it down and it’s then transmitted through the body via the bloodstream. People with certain medical conditions like anemia aren’t able to absorb vitamin B12 through the gut, so injections are necessary.
Typically, a doctor or specialist will administer approximately 1,000 micrograms of B12 — about 400 times the recommended daily amount for an adult — via a tiny needle into the upper arm, thigh, butt or hip. Even though most people receive B12 injections at a doctor’s office, spa or clinic, they are widely available online and can be administered safely at home.
Websites sell vials of vitamin B12 from $5 to $30 for a single treatment.
Risks and Side Effects
Side effects of B12 injections vary based on which type of medication is used. Cyanocobalamin has been linked to low potassium levels, which can trigger heart problems and other serious concerns. Methylcobalamin, the liquid form of natural vitamin B12, has its own set of concerns.
Both medications can cause pain and redness at the injection site, diarrhea, itching, swelling and allergic reactions. Some patients also report experiencing involuntary or uncontrollable movements, nervousness and anxiety when taking some forms of vitamin B12 supplements. In rare cases, patients have experienced congestive heart failure, blood clots and anaphylaxis.
One of the most important things to consider before increasing your consumption of B12 in any form is that the substance has several known interactions. Prilosec, Leukeran, Colcrys, Mitigare and the herbal supplement Goldenseal can trigger serious drug interactions with B12.
Make sure to talk to your doctor about whether upping your B12 intake will have negative interactions with any of your medications.
The Best Ways to Lose Weight
Of course, maintaining a healthy weight is important to staving off diabetes, heart disease and other medical issues. For the best results on your weight loss journey, rule number one is to follow a healthy diet. Exercise will also help you melt away the extra pounds and keep them off for good. A good diet and solid workout will always be the best way to bust fat.
Other procedures, such as body contouring and liposuction, may be good options for people who struggle with stubborn excess fat. Tummy tucks and other surgical procedures are especially ideal for patients who have lost a significant amount of weight but have trouble tightening up sagging skin or excess fat.
It’s important to remember, however, that these are not weight loss treatments in themselves, but rather complementary treatments for those who have recently shed a significant number of pounds and are now close to their ideal weight.
» Connecting with a board-certified plastic surgeon will help you determine if any of these options are viable for your specific scenario.