Are Vitamin B12 Injections Worth The Hype? Our Expert Explains

There are more pros than cons.

By Edie Horstman
health wellness habits

Vitamin B12 injections: A temporary wellness trend or an essential part of overall health? In the last few years, wellness centers and holistic beauty spas have added this buzzy treatment to their menu. In fact, our local farmers’ market offers walk-in vitamin shots, like immune boosters, vitamin D3, and more. 

Typically a straightforward experience, these injections have become increasingly popular and for good reason. Although vitamin B12 injections are usually prescribed to treat a vitamin B12 deficiency, these shots are akin to insurance: Even if you’re in good health, you never know when you might need support. Vitamin B12 injections are touted for boosting energy, improving sleep, and more. And don’t fret, these shots are administered by experienced medical professionals, like registered nurses. 

Why We Must Have Vitamin B12

A water-soluble vitamin, vitamin B12 is essential to everybody. It has many functions and benefits, but it’s predominantly known for its role in helping your body produce red blood cells. It also helps the body convert food into glucose—in other words, the creation of energy. Adequate levels of vitamin B12 are also required for a healthy nervous system, pregnancy, and the ability to produce DNA.

Found naturally in animal products like clams, salmon, cottage cheese, and beef, vitamin B12 is also added to fortified foods, along with oral supplementations or injections. As an omnivore, there are a variety of different ingredients with high levels of vitamin B12 however, there are certain groups of people who need supplementation. More on that, below.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The human liver stores several years’ worth of vitamin B12, so having a deficiency isn’t very common. However, it’s important to know what your levels are, after all, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause damage to your nerves and affect brain function. A few symptoms of B12 deficiency include: Conditions of the small intestine (Crohn’s disease), anemia, fatigue, constipation, poor balance, memory loss, shortness of breath, and more.

Do You Need a Vitamin B12 Injection?

Pregnant and breastfeeding women require vitamin B12 for their infant’s neurological development, red blood cell production, and immune system vitality. Getting adequate vitamin B12, in the form of a high-quality prenatal, supplement, or injection is key. In addition, many older adults—or those who have undergone digestion-related surgery—don’t have enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach to absorb vitamin B12 in food. Therefore, they also benefit from an injection or supplementing.

People with autoimmune conditions or diseases like celiac or Crohn’s might benefit from a vitamin B12 shot—in essence, those with gut issues. Last but not least, vegetarians, vegans, or predominantly plant-based eaters are likely low in vitamin B12. Even when eating a varied diet, they aren’t getting enough vitamin B12 from their food. Therefore, routine supplementation or injections are key.

What Are Vitamin B12 Injections?

As you consider the pros and cons of a vitamin B12 injection, it’s helpful to understand what they are and how they work. Injections are given intramuscularly, whether you visit a doctor’s office, med spa, or in my case, walk up to my neighborhood wellness truck. In other words, a quick shot. They can either be prescribed by a doctor or made via appointment. Some wellness centers take walk-ins too.

Injections are usually administered as hydroxocobalamin or cyanocobalamin (synthetic forms of vitamin B12). These are very effective at raising blood levels of vitamin B12, thus preventing or reversing a vitamin B12 deficiency. Hydroxocobalamin, in particular, is usually the recommended option as it stays in the body longer. On average, the price of an injection costs anywhere from $20-$100.

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Benefits of Vitamin B12 Injections

A vitamin B12 injection can bring on immediate health benefits. It increases energy levels and concentration, may improve metabolism, boosts the immune system, and aids in restful sleep. Since this vitamin is essential for DNA synthesis, nerve cell health, red blood cell formation, and neurological function, a vitamin B12 injection really is a no-brainer. 

How Often Should I Get a Vitamin B12 Injection?

Keep in mind that everyone is different and has unique needs. If you’re diagnosed with anemia associated with vitamin B12 deficiency, you’ll likely be given 100 mcg (as an injection) into the muscle—once daily—for about one week. Eventually, the frequency of this injection will be down to once every month. That said, the frequency and dosage will change, based on improved blood work and symptoms. In most other cases, a single session per month is suitable.

Who Shouldn’t Get Vitamin B12 Injections?

Although vitamin B12 injections are generally considered to be very safe, there are very rare cases in which people can experience side effects like an allergic reaction or sensitivity. Chat with your primary care physician to discuss any potential side effects. 

Is a Vitamin B12 Injection Worth It?

It depends, of course! Again, chat with your healthcare provider or doctor. Get a blood test drawn. It’s important to have data before getting an injection. While excess vitamin B12 isn’t necessarily harmful (unused vitamin B12 expels via urination), these injections can interact with other medications. Always consult your doctor beforehand. If you aren’t truly deficient in vitamin B12, an injection (or oral supplement) is a nice to have, not a must-have