June 13, 2024

Health Supplements

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The 7 Best B12 Supplements, According to a Dietitian

15 min read

Vitamin B12 has many health benefits and is needed for brain and nerve function, red blood cell formation, and DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 can be stored in the liver. We continually need to get B12 from food or a supplement so these stores don’t run out. B12 is found in various animal protein sources including salmon, meat, cheese, and eggs. Since plant foods don’t naturally contain B12, vegans and vegetarians may be at higher risk of B12 deficiency. Older adults, those with gastrointestinal surgery, or a gastrointestinal illness are at a higher risk of deficiency from poor absorption in the digestive tract. Medications like metformin and gastric acid inhibitors can also increase risk for low B12 levels.

That’s where a B12 supplement might come in handy. B12 supplements contain high amounts of this vitamin, so they can help prevent or treat a B12 deficiency. Because B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, the risk of toxicity is very low.

When searching for a B12 supplement, you’ll want to find a form that works for you whether that’s a capsule, gummy, or part of a multivitamin. If you’re vegan, you’ll also want to be sure you pick a supplement without gelatin. To find the best B12 supplements, we spoke with two other dietitians about their favorite products and what they recommend looking for in a quality supplement.


Note About Supplements

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. They also may interact with other supplements or medications you are taking. Our team of registered dietitians reviews supplements according to our rigorous dietary supplement methodology. We also had a registered dietitian review this page for its scientific accuracy. Please always speak with a healthcare provider to discuss any supplements you plan on taking.

Best Overall

Nature Made B12 Softgels

Nature Made B12 Softgels

Amazon


Nature Made’s B12 Softgels are a high-quality supplement that are easy to find and affordable. Gladys Saucedo RDN, LD, clinical dietitian based in Las Vegas recommends them for this very reason. They are third-party tested by USP, a credible organization that verifies supplement labels are accurate. We like that these are softgels, which many people find easy to swallow. However, if you want something different, Nature Made offers B12 in sublingual lozenges or tablets as well. 

The 1,000 microgram (mcg) dose is standard for a B12 supplement, and although it is over 41,000% of the Daily Value (DV) for B12, the risk of toxicity is low. We only absorb a small amount of the B12 we consume, partly because B12 absorption requires enough intrinsic factor (IF) in the stomach. It is also a water soluble vitamin meaning we don’t store it very well in the body.

Because these softgels contain gelatin, which is derived from cows or pigs, they’re not suitable for a vegan diet. 

Product Details:

  • Serving Size: 1 softgel
  • B12 per serving: 1,000 mcg
  • Other ingredients: soybean oil, gelatin, glycerin, yellow beeswax, water, rapeseed lecithin, colors added (including carmine)
  • Dietary Considerations: gluten-free

Best Dissolvable

Nature’s Bounty Quick Dissolve Vitamin B12

Nature's Bounty Quick Dissolve Vitamin B12

Amazon


This quick dissolve B12 supplement from Nature’s Bounty is great for those who don’t like swallowing pills but want a budget-friendly, accessible B12 option. Plus, they are third-party tested and approved in a 2023 review of B vitamin supplements through ConsumerLab.com’s voluntary certification program. Nature Bounty states being vegetarian-friendly and free of sugar, artificial flavors, soy, gluten, fish, and dairy.

To take this supplement, you place a tablet under your tongue and let it dissolve for 30 seconds before swallowing it. This is considered a sublingual supplement; these types of supplements have been shown to be as effective as intramuscular B12 injections for absorption. This form of delivery can also be helpful for people who have digestive or malabsorption issues.

At 2,500 mcg per quick dissolve tablet, each serving contains a higher dose than many other B12 supplements. Even though this high of a dose likely won’t be toxic, our bodies can’t absorb the whole amount all at once. So, note it may not boost your B12 levels with just one or a few pills. You’ll likely still need to take this supplement over time to increase B12 levels, depending on the level of your deficiency and guidance from a healthcare professional.

Product Details:

  • Serving Size: 1 tablet
  • B12 per serving: 2,500 mcg
  • Other ingredients: mannitol, crospovidone, vegetable stearic acid, natural flavor, beet juice color, sucralose, vegetable magnesium stearate
  • Dietary Considerations: gluten-free, soy-free, vegetarian-friendly

Best Multivitamin with B12

Kirkland Signature Daily Multi

Kirkland Signature Daily Multi

Amazon


If you take a multivitamin and you want to add in B12, it’s easiest to ensure your multivitamin contains a good amount of B12. That way you don’t have to add another pill to your regimen. We love that this supplement has strong third-party testing for ingredient accuracy by being USP-verified, and it contains a good mix of vitamins and minerals that men and women both need. However, it should be noted this multi contains 18 mg of iron, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for women under 51 years of age. However, all men and women over 51 years only have an RDA of 8 mg of iron per day. Therefore, the iron amount may be more than these groups need.

Most multivitamins contain B12 at a lower dose than B12 supplements alone, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Especially since this multivitamin isn’t vegan-friendly anyway (it contains gelatin), most people taking this multi can meet their B12 needs from a combination of food sources of B12 and the supplement.

Vegetarians may be at a higher risk of B12 deficiency, but eating eggs, dairy products, and fortified plant foods can help ensure vegetarians are getting enough B12. 

This multivitamin contains 6 micrograms (mcg) of B12, which is 250% of the daily value.

Product Details:

  • Serving Size: 1 tablet
  • B12 per serving: 6 mcg
  • Other ingredients: calcium phosphate, magnesium oxide, potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, cellulose gel, ascorbic acid, ferrous fumarate, modified food starch, d-alpha tocopheryl acetate, niacinamide, zinc oxide, d-calcium pantothenate, hypromellose, croscarmellose sodium, manganese sulfate, magnesium stearate, silicon dioxide, copper sulfate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, gelatin, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, retinyl acetate, polyethylene glycol, beta carotene, folic acid, boric acid, lutein, chromium picolinate, lycopene, potassium iodide, sodium selenate, sodium molybdate, biotin, phytonadione, sodium metavanadate, vitamin D3
  • Dietary Considerations: gluten-free

Best Vegan

Thorne Vitamin B12

Thorne Vitamin B12

Amazon


Saucedo recommends Thorne’s B12 supplement for vegans because it comes from a reputable manufacturer with strong in-house ingredient testing. It’s free from animal products, unlike some other B12 supplements that contain gelatin. She also likes that Thorne has well-thought out supplement formulations, participates in clinical trials, and has resources on their website that helps consumers make informed decisions. 

Thorne’s B12 supplement contains the natural form of B12, methylcobalamin, unlike others that include the synthetic form, cyanocobalamin. Methylcobalamin has a higher bioavailability (absorption), and studies show they have a similar efficacy when it comes to reversing or preventing B12 deficiency.

Product Details:

  • Serving Size: 1 capsule
  • B12 per serving: 1,000 mcg
  • Other ingredients: microcrystalline cellulose, hypromellose capsule, leucine, silicon dioxide
  • Dietary Considerations: vegan, dairy-free, soy-free

Best Spray

Garden of Life Organic Whole Food B-12 for Metabolism and Energy

Garden of Life B12 Vitamin - mykind Organic Whole Food B-12 for Metabolism and Energy, Raspberry

Amazon


Why We Like It

  • It’s certified vegan, kosher, organic, gluten-free, and third-party tested. 

Garden of Life’s B12 spray accommodates a variety of dietary needs—it’s vegan, gluten-free, organic, kosher, and made from whole food ingredients. Plus, it’s third-party tested and approved in a 2023 review of B vitamin supplements through ConsumerLab.com’s voluntary certification program. 

Since it’s a spray, Saucedo recommends it for those who don’t like pills. You spray it into your mouth, which means absorption happens in the mouth rather than the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This is helpful for older adults or those with GI conditions where absorption may be limited. 

The fruit and veggie blend lends a pleasant flavor to the spray. You’ll get 500 mcg in just one spray—over 20,000% of the daily value. One bottle contains 140 servings and must be used within 90 days, so it’s probably most useful if you need a higher dose than 500 mcg, or if you will be sharing it with someone else. Unlike other supplement forms, this spray must be refrigerated. 

Product Details:

  • Serving Size: 1 spray
  • B12 per serving: 500 mcg
  • Other ingredients: beet, carrot, spinach, broccoli, tomato, kale, red cabbage, parsley, brussels sprout, green bell pepper, cucumber, celery, garlic, ginger, green onion, cauliflower, asparagus, strawberry, cherry, blackberry, blueberry, raspberry (all ingredients are organic)

Best Gummy

Nature Made Energy B12 Gummies 1000 Mcg

Nature Made Energy B12 Gummies 1000 Mcg
Amazon.

We know swallowing pills is not everyone’s favorite. Sometimes a tasty gummy can help motivate you to regularly take your supplement. Nature Made’s Energy B12 Gummies are not only tasty, they’re USP-verified so you can feel secure that the ingredient label is accurate. They contain 1,000 mcg of B12 per two-gummy serving, a standard amount for many B12 supplements. Since the 1,000 mcg is split between two gummies, you could even take them at different times of the day. Prab Kaur, MSc. RD, founder of NutriKaur, a private practice for plant-based eaters, says that spreading your intake out in this way could help increase the absorption of B12.

Like most gummies, these do contain added sugars–two grams per serving. While this will contribute to your daily added sugar intake, it’s a pretty small amount compared with the 50 gram maximum recommended for a 2000 calorie diet. Unfortunately, these do contain gelatin, so note they’re not suitable for a vegan B12 supplement. 

Product Details:

  • Serving Size: 2 gummies
  • B12 per serving: 1,000 mcg
  • Other ingredients: glucose syrup, sugar, water, gelatin, citric acid, pectin, palm oil, colors added, natural flavors, carnauba wax
  • Dietary Considerations: gluten-free

Best Liquid

Vitacost Liquid Vitamin B12

Vitacost Liquid Vitamin B12

Vitacost


Since vegans and those with certain GI conditions are at higher risk of B12 deficiency, we like that Vitacost’s liquid vitamin B12 accommodates both of these groups. Since it’s a liquid, it’s recommended you squeeze drops directly into your mouth. This means the vitamin will be absorbed in your mouth rather than through your GI tract like with pills. Vegans don’t have to worry because this product is free from animal products.

One of the great things about a liquid supplement like this one is you have a lot of flexibility with the dosage. One serving (16 drops) provides 1,000 mcg, but you can easily consume more or less drops depending on your needs. So, this can serve as a low-dose, moderate-dose, or high-dose supplement.

Plus, this supplement is third-party tested and approved. We love the flexibility of this B12 supplement, but note it may have a medicinal flavor that might not be everyone’s favorite. 

Product Details:

  • Serving Size: 16 drops
  • B12 per serving: 1,000 mcg
  • Other ingredients: vegetable glycerin, water, citric acid, natural flavor, ginger, amla, capsicum, potassium sorbate, mixed tocopherols

Who May Not Want to Use a B12 Supplement

The risk of B12 toxicity is low because our bodies excrete most of the excess B12 in our urine. While there’s not currently an established tolerable upper limit (UL) for B12, there may still be concerns in taking a high-dose B12 supplement long term when you don’t need it. Some research suggests having chronically elevated levels of B12 in the blood may be related to an increased risk of certain cancers for some people, although more research is needed.

People that might not need a B12 supplement include:

  • Those who eat animal products or B12 fortified foods regularly. Foods like beef, eggs, salmon, cheese, and fortified nutritional yeast are great sources of B12. If you eat food sources of B12 regularly, you can probably meet your needs without a supplement. Kaur recommends focusing on food sources rather than supplementation if you’re not vegan or vegetarian.

Who May Want B12 Supplements

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin, meaning our bodies don’t produce it on their own, so we must get it from food. Although deficiencies in the U.S. are fairly low, the following groups may benefit from supplementation.

  • Older adults. Research has shown that older adults have higher rates of B12 deficiencies than the general public. Saucedo points out that this is in part due to their higher rates of atrophic gastritis–chronic inflammation and thinning of the stomach lining–that hinders B12 absorption in the gut. 
  • Vegans and vegetarians. Since most food sources of B12 are animal products, vegans and vegetarians have a higher risk of deficiency. While there are vegan foods fortified with B12, like nutritional yeast, B12 supplements could be another way for plant-based eaters to prevent deficiency.
  • People taking certain medications. Proton pump inhibitors and metformin can deplete B12 levels which can increase risk of a B12 deficiency. If you’re taking one of these medications, a B12 supplement may help boost your levels to prevent a deficiency. 
  • Those with gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses. If you have had gastric bypass surgery or if you have a GI illness like ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease, your risk of B12 deficiency may be higher, says Saucedo. That’s because your GI tract may not do a great job of absorbing nutrients from your food. In some cases, B12 injections may be recommended to bring B12 levels back up to normal instead of oral supplements.

Our Approach to Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here.

We support supplements that are evidence-based and rooted in science. We value certain product attributes that we find to be associated with the highest quality products. We prioritize products that are third-party tested and certified by one of three independent, third party certifiers: USP, NSF, or ConsumerLab.com.

It’s important to note that the FDA does not review dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness before they go to market. Our team of experts has created a detailed, science-backed methodology to choose the supplements we recommend.

Experts we spoke to for the best B12 supplements include:

  • Prab Kaur, MSc. RD, founder of NutriKaur, a private practice for plant-based eaters
  • Gladys Saucedo, RDN, LD, clinical dietitian based in Las Vegas

What to Know About B12 Supplements

Potency & Purity Testing

Supplements that are third-party tested are sent to a lab where they are tested to ensure they contain what they say they contain and are not contaminated with specific high-risk, common contaminants. However, it’s important to note:

  • Third-party testing does not test to see if a product is effective or safe for everyone, and it does not ensure the supplement will not interact with other supplements or medications.
  • Not all third-party testing is created equal. It is not uncommon for supplement companies to pay labs for certificates after conducting minimal to no testing. 
  • The third-party certifications we can trust are: ConsumerLab.com, NSF, and USP. However, these certifications are difficult to obtain and/or expensive for manufacturers, so many companies choose not to get their products tested by one of these three organizations. 
  • Sometimes products tested by these three companies are more expensive to try to offset the cost they pay for certification.
  • Just because a supplement is not tested by one of these three companies, it does not mean it’s a bad product. We recommend doing some research on the reputability of the manufacturer, and calling up the manufacturer and their testing lab to determine their protocols and decide if you feel comfortable consuming the supplement.

While there are some supplement categories that have many options that have been third-party tested, many supplements for weight gain are treated more like food products and are not third-party tested. We recommend selecting products from brands that are transparent about their values, formulations, and manufacturing processes.

Form

Vitamin B12 supplements come in different forms: pills, gummies, meltables, sprays, and liquids. B12’s bioavailability (absorption) from supplements has actually been shown to be higher than from food sources.

When considering which form is best for you, you’ll want to pick whatever’s most comfortable for you so that you’ll actually take the supplement. Saucedo says, “If you struggle with pills, maybe a gummy or spray will be helpful. If a multivitamin [has been recommended] for you, look for a multivitamin that includes B12 and can reduce the amount of pills you are taking. If you follow a vegan diet, you can find a vegan supplement.”

Form is also important if you want to bypass the gut for absorption issues with B12. In these instances, a liquid, spray, or dissolvable form may be best, A healthcare professional can further guide what is best for your needs.

The natural forms of B12 are called methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, and hydroxycobalamin. These forms have a greater bioavailability (absorption) and are considered the preferred form in supplements. However, the synthetic cyanocobalamin form can still be used for B12 supplements especially if absorption is not an issue.

Ingredients: What to Pay Attention to

It is essential to carefully read the ingredient list and nutrition facts panel of a supplement to know which ingredients and how much of each ingredient is included, relative to the recommended daily value of that ingredient. Please bring the supplement label to a healthcare provider to review the different ingredients contained in the supplement and any potential interactions between these ingredients and other supplements and medications you are taking.

Metformin or gastric acid inhibitors including omeprazole, lansoprazole, and cimetidine can reduce the absorption of B12 supplements. If you take these medications, talk with your healthcare team for the best way or if you need to supplement B12.

If you’re vegan, you’ll want to check the ingredients list because some B12 supplements–usually capsules–may contain gelatin. 

B12 Supplement Dosage

For adults age 19 and older, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for B12 is 2.4 micrograms. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, the RDA is 2.6 and 2.8 micrograms respectively. 

Many B12 supplements contain 1 milligram/1,000 micrograms. That’s over 41,000% of the RDA; however, it’s considered a safe dose since the potential for B12 toxicity is low, says Saucedo. 

How Much is Too Much?

Many vitamins and minerals have an established tolerable upper limit (UL) that designates how much is too much. B12 is unique in that there is no UL. Experts have determined there is a low risk of toxicity (mainly because you excrete the excess in your urine), so high doses of B12 are not considered to be too risky.

That being said, Saucedo points out that the energy-boosting effects of B12 are only realized when you correct a deficiency. Taking megadoses of B12 when you’re not deficient probably won’t lead to a big energy boost. 

Your Questions, Answered

Which form of vitamin B12 is best?

Vitamin B12 comes in a variety of forms–capsules, sublingual tablets, sprays, drops, and gummies. When considering which form is best for you, you’ll want to pick whatever’s most comfortable for you so that you’ll actually take the supplement. If you don’t like swallowing pills, go with a gummy or liquid option. If you’re vegan, make sure you pick one without gelatin. 

If you have issues with your GI system or may have lowered absorption, a spray, liquid, or dissolvable supplement may be best to bypass absorption issues in the gut.

Do I need a B12 supplement if I’m not vegan?

If you eat a variety of animal products including eggs, fish, meat, and dairy, you probably won’t need a B12 supplement to meet your needs. B12 deficiencies are uncommon in the U.S., particularly among those who eat food sources of this vitamin. 

However, if you are an older adult, have had gastrointestinal surgery, have a gastrointestinal illness, or take metformin or a gastric acid inhibitor, you may be at higher risk of a deficiency and a supplement may be warranted. 

What’s the best way for vegans and vegetarians to get B12?

Although B12 isn’t naturally found in vegan foods, some vegan products are fortified with B12. Some of the most common are nutritional yeast, non-dairy milks, cereal, or tempeh. Check the nutrition facts label to be sure the product you’re buying is fortified. Eating fortified vegan foods can help you get in B12, but you may also want to take a B12 supplement.

How much B12 do I need in a day?

Adults age 19 and over need 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day, according to the National Institutes of Health. Pregnant individuals need 2.6 micrograms and breastfeeding individuals need 2.8 micrograms. The rates are lower for children. 

What are the symptoms of low B12?

The symptoms of B12 deficiency usually take years to appear because our bodies store over 1,000 times the amount of B12 we need in a day. Symptoms of a B12 deficiency include low white and red blood cell counts, tongue inflammation, fatigue, heart palpitations, pale skin, dementia, weight loss, infertility, and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.

Who We Are

Isabel Vasquez RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and freelance health and nutrition writer. Her work is especially focused on helping individuals divest from a one-size-fits-all approach to health and connect with their unique needs. In her work as a dietitian, she regularly examines supplements to ensure they are high-quality before recommending them to her patients, clients, and readers.

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