What harm can a deficiency in vitamin B12 do to you? It turns out it can affect your entire body, including your hair. This tiny water-soluble vitamin that is also known as cobalamin is vital for red blood cell formation, DNA synthesis, and neurological function.
B12 (approximately 80%) is mainly stored in the liver with a total of 2–5 mg in an adult. This vitamin is excreted (from 1–10 µg per day) in the bile and then reabsorbed.
A case report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, with inputs from Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, spoke about a person with a lack of vitamin B12 who experienced serious appalling health conditions. (1)
Vitamin B12 deficiency in the blood can lead to acute depression, paranoia and delusions, loss of taste and smell, incontinence, and hair loss.
Why Is Vitamin B12 Important for Hair?
The body needs vitamin B to make red blood cells, DNA, and nerves and to perform other functions. For example, an adult needs 2.4 µg, and if the body cannot get it from food, it must be taken from supplements.
Vitamin B12 is needed to form red blood cells (RBCs) that carry oxygen and other nutrients and distribute them throughout the body. If there is an insufficient number of RBCs, then your hair follicles will suffer from nutrient deprivation.
Vitamin B12 has a big role to play in the production of nucleic acids, which means it also has a role to play in hair follicle health.
A sufficient amount of RBCs is needed to enhance your body’s natural functions, including hair growth. Vitamin B12 helps make your hair follicles healthier and more robust, resulting in better hair growth and stronger strands. Some studies reveal that a vitamin B12 deficiency hampers hair growth. (2)
If you are experiencing hair loss, then try to resolve your vitamin B12 deficiency by taking 3 µg or more of B12 supplement per day to see tangible results in hair growth.
What Are the Sources of Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in milk, eggs, meat, and fish. Still, many plant-based foods are rich in this vital vitamin, including broccoli, asparagus, bean sprouts, seaweeds, sea vegetables, mushrooms, fermented teas, and kimchi.
Vitamin B12 is attached to the amino acids present in protein-based foods, and it is only released in the presence of certain enzymes and stomach acids. (3)
Some people may not get enough B12 from food, while others have difficulty absorbing it, but a deficiency of this vitamin is pretty standard, affecting the general population. (1)
What Causes Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency first came into the spotlight in 1849 and was considered to be a fatal one until 1926, when consuming liver, which is high in vitamin B12, helped people recover from it. (4)
According to the US Institute of Medicine, adults over 51 years must get their vitamin B12 from foods that are fortified or from supplements, a step that gives recognition to the high rates of malabsorption because of age-related gastritis. Vitamin B12 is stored in the body for many years, and the deficiency takes a long time to develop, but the malabsorption and inadequate dietary intake primarily cause its deficiency. (4)
Many factors, including aging, can lead to this deficiency. Some of the reasons are:
- Anemia – Anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency is a condition where the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells due to a lack of vitamin B12, which is critical to the formation of red blood cells.
- Using acid reflux medications
- Intestinal problems
- Gastric surgery
- Chronic alcoholism (5) – Chronic alcoholism has been shown to lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12 due to dietary inadequacy, intestinal malabsorption, a decrease in the hepatic uptake, and an increase in body excretion, through the urine. A lower amount of serum folic acid is found to be present in 80% of alcoholics.
- Prolonged or heavy menstrual periods
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency results in symptoms including:
- Loss of appetite
- Sore mouth
- Weight loss
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Balance problems
- Memory problems
- Hair loss
How to Boost Your Vitamin B12 Intake?
According to research, the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin B12 is 2.4 µg for adults in the United States. (2)
Correct your acute vitamin B12 deficiency with weekly doses of vitamin B12 or by taking a high dose of B12 pills daily. A mild B12 deficiency can be fixed with the intake of multivitamins.
If you’re a strict vegetarian or vegan, then consider adding cereals, bread, and other grains that have been fortified with vitamin B12 to your diet or include daily supplements in your diet.
A standard multivitamin can deliver 6 µg, which is more than sufficient to cover an adult’s daily needs.
General Queries Related to Vitamin B12 Hair Loss
What are the benefits of vitamin B12 for the hair?
Vitamin B12 helps to repigment the hair, maintains the original hair color of your locks, and helps to stimulate hair growth by preventing hair loss.
How does a lack of vitamin B12 cause hair loss?
Vitamin B12 is essential for various vital body functions. It has a prominent role in the formation of red blood cells, which transport oxygen to all parts of the body including the hair follicles.
However, when there is low vitamin B12 in the body, then the growth of hair follicles is impacted. Vitamin B12 deficiency also causes anemia, which can lead to hair thinning and hair loss.
Can taking vitamin B12 supplements help in reversing graying hair?
Vitamin B12 is a B-complex vitamin that is responsible for keeping the skin and hair healthy and helps the hair regain its lost color after a prolonged illness or deficiency.
To maintain the normal functioning of your body systems, you need to have a sufficient intake of vitamin B12 through either food or supplements.
B12 is required to improve hair growth the natural way and helps keep your strands strong and healthy. Hair growth is only one of the perks of taking vitamin B12, apart from a robust immune system and sound sleep.
- Staff HHP. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky and harmful. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780. Published March 23, 2022.
- Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: A Review. Dermatology and therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6380979/. Published March 2019.
- Office of dietary supplements – vitamin B12. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/.
- O’Leary F, Samman S. Vitamin B12 in health and disease. Nutrients. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257642/. Published March 2010.
- A; FAMCCAS. Functional vitamin B12 deficiency in alcoholics: An intriguing finding in a retrospective study of megaloblastic anemic patients. European journal of internal medicine. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20206879/.