Vitamin B12 as a Nootropic

vitamin b12 as a nootropic

One of the most important nutrients is vitamin B12 or Cobalamin. Vitamin B12 plays a part in numerous processes in the body, including red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis, and creation of myelin sheath that enables your brain cells to fire signals to each other.

But, as we get older our body’s capacity to absorb vitamin B12 from food slowly declines. When your body lacks vitamin B12, it can lead to anemia, depression, cognitive decline, and other health issues.

If you’re a nootropic user, it’s smart to include vitamin B12 in your stack. It will support all the other nootropics in the stack and ensure you get the most out of them.

Vitamin B12 boosts your:

  • Mood – Vitamin B12 helps your brain create more dopamine and serotonin. Reducing anxiety, pain, and depression in the process.
  • Mental Energy & Clarity – Vitamin B12 works together with vitamin B9 to regulate homocysteine. What is homocysteine, you ask? It’s an amino acid that can irritate your blood vessels and cause plaque to build up within your brain. This can often manifest as brain fog in the early stages. By regulating homocysteine, vitamin B12 ensures a healthy cerebral blood flow, and consequently, mental clarity.
  • Brain Chemicals – Vitamin B12 plays an integral role in the synthesis of your GABA, norepinephrine, and other neurotransmitters. Without vitamin B12, these brain chemicals can’t get created.

A Glance at Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 has one of the coolest and most complex chemical structures out of any nootropic.

Vitamin B12 is one of the 8 B vitamins. All of which are water-soluble and vital for having an optimized brain. And pretty much every other organ in your body.

As a nootropic, vitamin B12 is known to boost energy levels, focus, memory, alertness, and intelligence. Vitamin B12 supplementation can even help you against depression and stress.

Foods that are high in B12 all come from animals – including liver, beef, eggs, clams, and milk. Especially clams and liver.

I may trigger you with the following statement – if you’re easily triggered, skip this part. The fact is that vegans or vegetarians are unlikely to be getting enough vitamin B12 through their diet alone. Even meat eaters have a hard time getting adequate amounts of vitamin B12 due to its poor absorption, which gets worse as you age.

I personally use vitamin B12 even though I eat meat. It’s a regular part of my nootropic stack. It’s the foundational vitamin. Without it, other nootropics can’t work properly.

How Does Vitamin B12 Support Your Brain?

Two ways in which vitamin B12 supports your brain:

  1. It improves cognition. Vitamin B12 is a cofactor for the creation of all major brain chemicals.
  2. Reduces depression. As vitamin B12 is needed for the synthesis of serotonin, it’s critical for healthy mood and well being. A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to lowered serotonin production, and consequently, the blues.

Is Vitamin B12 as a Nootropic For Everyone?

It is. Vitamin B12 is a foundational nutrient for health. The problem is, as your stomach acid declines with age, vitamin B12 becomes much harder to absorb. This is highlighted by the fact that 30% or more of all adults over the age of 50 have issues with absorbing B12.

Since vitamin B12 is mostly obtained from animals, vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in this nutrient.

  • A deficiency in B12 is bad for your mental performance. It’s been linked to age-related cognitive decline, as well as mood imbalances.

How Vitamin B12 can Help You

Vitamin B12 such as the one found in high-quality nootropic stacks (like Mind Lab Pro), is a foundation nootropic that many people might be lacking.

Vitamin B12 helps ‘insulate’ your nerves, produce neurotransmitters, and maintain high and stable brain energy for peak mental performance.

Mechanisms of Action

  • Foundational support for the maintenance of the nervous system
  • Protects cerebral blood flow from homocysteine
  • Plays a role in myelination that shields neurons and promotes their communication
  • Aids in maintaining a healthy brain structure as you age

Nootropic Benefits

  • Supports mental energy levels
  • Promotes cognitive clarity and mental function
  • Protects from long-term mental decline

Brain Pathways that Vitamin B12 Targets

Brain Chemicals

Your brain creates neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin from their amino acid pre-cursors that you get from your diet.

For example, to make serotonin, you need l-tryptophan, which is found in foods like chicken.

Through a series of complex processes, l-tryptophan turns to 5-HTP which then turns to serotonin. However, for this process to happen, you need vitamin B12, because it acts as a cofactor in the snythesis of these brain chemicals.

To further highlight this, animal studies show that B12-deficient rats have lower levels of brain chemicals like norepinephrine.

Brain Protection

Vitamin B12 is needed throughout your entire nervous system for the synthesis of myelin sheath.

As the name implies, myelin is the fatty sheath that encircles your nerves, protecting them and optimizing communication in the brain. Much like insulation around an electrical cord.

Brain Circulation

Just like vitamins B6 and B9, vitamin B12 plays a critical role in keeping homocysteine levels at bay. Homocysteine is a nasty little chemical, a byproduct of eating foods like red meat. Too much of it can clog up your blood vessels in the brain, and irritate capillary’s inner walls. B12 helps your brain blood flow by keeping homocysteine regulated; one study found that B12 supplementation lowered homocysteine levels by as much as 36%.

Brain Energy

B12 plays a role in cell energy metabolism, including within your neurons. As such it can contribute to having improved mental clarity and mood.

Vitamin B12 Nootropic Studies

Study #1 – Vitamin B12 For Depression

People with major depression often have low blood levels of vitamins B9 (folate) and B12, according to research. Low blood B9 levels are also linked to not responding to antidepressants.

On the flip side, treatment with vitamins B9 and/or B12 has been shown to improve the effects of antidepressants. This is believed to be due to vitamin B12’s influence on the production of ‘mood chemicals’ in your brain, including serotonin and SAM-e.

What’s more, a deficiency in B12 is a predictable marker of high homocysteine.

As we’ve seen, raised homocysteine can cause plaque in your capillaries, and irritate the blood vessels. But what it also does, it increases the risk of depression – as this study from Norway showed.

The researchers of the study found that doses of vitamin B12 and B9 daily might be helpful in improving treatment outcomes for depression. (1)


[alert type=”warning” icon-size=”hide-icon”]Key Point: Vitamin B12 might improve the effects of certain antidepressants, along with supporting overall mood and cognitive health.[/alert]

Study #2 – Vitamin B12 For OCD

This was a single-case report where a man with OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) was given vitamin B12 in the form of methylcobalamin. Not long after his OCD symptoms dramatically improved. Suggesting that a deficiency in vitamin B12 could play a role in many more neurological disorders than we think.  (2)


[alert type=”warning” icon-size=”normal”]Key Point: Aside from its potential to improve mood, vitamin B12 might also help with OCD in people who’re deficient in it.[/alert]

Study #3 – Vitamin B12 and Folate Reduce the Risk of Alzheimer’s

This study from Stockholm looked into the link between low vitamin B9 and B12 intake and Alzheimer’s Disease.

The results ultimately showed that subjects with low blood vitamin B12 or B9 levels had twice the risk of developing the neurological condition.  (3)


[alert type=”warning” icon-size=”hide-icon”]Key Point: Vitamins B9 and B12 may play a part in the development of Alzheimer’s. Monitoring levels of these vitamins in the elderly could prove helpful for preventing the disease.[/alert]

What Does Supplementing with Vitamin B12 Feel Like?

Nootropic users that supplement with vitamin B12 report having more mental clarity and better sleep. Some report a decrease in pain. Others say how vitamin B12 improves their mood and energy levels. Their overall sense of well-being improves too.

Chances are you won’t feel vitamin B12 working unless you’re deficient in it. If you are, then a supplementation might give you a big boost of energy. Constant dragging fatigue can disappear in as little as a few days.

How to Get the Most Out of Vitamin B12

You can get vitamin B12 in tablets, lozenges, liquid drops, sprays, and capsules. Sprays and sublingual lozenges are marketed as being more easily absorbed in the body. This doesn’t hold much truth in studies, though.

[alert type=”info” icon-size=”normal”]The one thing you should keep in mind, however, is the form of vitamin B12 you take. Many cheap multivitamins and B-complex formulas contain cyanocobalamin. This is a poor source of vitamin B12 that even produces some cyanide in your body. Hence the name cyanocobalamin.[/alert]

Higher quality forms of vitamin B12 include methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin. How do you find those? It’s not easy, but there are some supplements that use them.

  • One option is Performance Lab Whole-Food Multi which uses nature-identical vitamins and minerals, including B12. I prefer PL Whole Food Multi because it’s biologically active, potent, and far more effective than any other multivitamin I’ve used.

Another great option, if you like nootropics, is Mind Lab Pro. Which combines nature-identical B vitamins with highly researched herbs, mushrooms, and nutrients that work together to optimize all aspects of brain health. Including mood, memory, motivation, focus, and stress resistance.

Both Mind Lab Pro and Performance Lab Nutrigenesis Multi use premium BioGenesis technology. This means they contain nutrients that have been grown on plant, yeast, and probiotic cultures in strict, state-of-the-art laboratory conditions. So, you’re getting nutrients that your body sees as identical to those from nature, which results in better absorption.

Nootropic Dosage of Vitamin B12

As vitamin B12 is water soluble, you can take it without food. It’s also non-toxic when taken at recommended doses.

If you eat a varied diet with high-quality animal products, you should be getting enough vitamin B12 to get by and not be deficient. But vegetarians and vegans should supplement.

If you want to be sure you’re getting optimal amounts of vitamin B12 for nootropic benefits, then taking 100mcg (0.1mg) daily is the recommended dose.

Those with poor vitamin B12 absorption, including people over 40, should use 100-400mcg of B12 per day.

If you’re vitamin B12 deficient or suspect any kind of medical condition, you should check with your doctor to determine the best course of action to address your issue.

Side Effects

As I’ve briefly mentioned, vitamin B12 is non-toxic, safe, and well-tolerated – when taken in the recommended doses.

Doses up to 1mg monthly by injection or 2mg by mouth have been well-tolerated in clinical trials. When you take vitamin B12 orally in high doses, only a small percentage of that actually gets absorbed, which is likely the reason behind its low toxicity levels.

Anything Else to Consider?

Vitamin B12 is particularly helpful for people with slee problems, brain fog, fatigue, and poor memory. Vitamin B12 supplementation can become important after the age of 40 as this is the age where you start absorbing less and less of this nutrient.

Note that you should never take one B vitamin in isolation, unless otherwise told by a medical professional. Taking vitamin B12 alone can deplete other B vitamins in your body creating other problems.

If you’re a nootropic user, taking a high quality B vitamin complex is a must. This ensures that you have your bases covered, and that your nootropic supplements can work the way they’re supposed to.

Again, a great option is Performance Lab Nutrigenesis Multi, or Mind Lab Pro. Both contain nature-identical B vitamins along with other ingredients that optimize your mental performance.

Conclusion

Vitamin B12 is a critical nootropic supplement for maintaining brain health and function – especially later in life.

Although most people get enough vitamin B12 through their diet to not be deficient, elderly populations are at more risk of a deficiency.

The main cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in older individuals is poor absorption. Vegans and vegetarians are also at risk because of the lack of bioavailable B12 sources in their diet.

If you’re taking nootropic supplements, some of these nootropics won’t work if you’re vitamin B12-deficient. That’s why covering the bases is so important if you’re looking to have an optimized brain.

But make sure to choose a high-quality B vitamin complex or a multivitamin – cheaper stuff simply won’t do.

Recommended Products:

  1. Mind Lab Pro – The Best Reviewed Brain Health Supplement on the Market Right Now
11 Natural Ingredients, Supports 6 Bioactive Pathways for Complete Cognitive Optimization. Cleanest quality on the market right now.

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  1. Performance Lab NutriGenesis Multi – Nature Identical Vitamins and Minerals for Optimal Health + Peak Performance
Ultramodern multivitamin with two different formulas specialized for both genders.

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References
  1. Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12. (source)
  2. Cobalamin deficiency presenting as obsessive compulsive disorder: case report. (source)
  3. Vitamin B12 and folate in relation to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. (source)
About Valentino M. 93 Articles
Valentino is a nutritionist, author, spiritual practitioner, and health coach. He's been researching nutrition and brain health since 2015, and has launched Valentino's Naturals to help people maximize their cognitive performance. When he isn't writing, Valentino loves to travel around Europe, spend time recharging in nature, and research topics within his field of expertise. More...

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