8. Supports Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails

Given vitamin B12’s role in cell production, adequate levels of this vitamin are needed to promote healthy hair, skin and nails.

In fact, low vitamin B12 levels can cause various dermatologic symptoms, including hyperpigmentation, nail discoloration, hair changes, vitiligo (the loss of skin color in patches) and angular stomatitis (inflamed and cracked mouth corners) (2425).

Supplementing with vitamin B12 has been shown to improve dermatologic symptoms in people with B12 deficiency (2627).

However, if you’re well-nourished and not deficient in this vitamin, taking a supplement is unlikely to improve your skin, nail strength or hair health (28).

[box]Healthy vitamin B12 levels are important for your hair, skin and nails. However, taking a supplement probably won’t improve your health in these areas if your levels are already sufficient.[/box]

Who Is at Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

An estimated 6% of people in the US and UK aged 60 or older have vitamin B12 deficiency, while about 20% have low to normal or borderline deficient levels (29).

Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in one of two ways. Either your diet lacks adequate amounts of it or your body is unable to fully absorb it from the food you eat.

Those at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include (1):

  • Older adults
  • People with gastrointestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
  • Those who have had gastrointestinal surgeries, such as bariatric surgery or bowel resection surgery
  • People on a strict vegan diet
  • Those who take metformin for blood sugar control
  • Those taking proton pump inhibitors for chronic heartburn

In many older adults, the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is reduced, causing a reduction in the absorption of vitamin B12.

If your body has difficulty absorbing vitamin B12, your doctor may recommend intramuscular injections of B12 to increase your levels.

Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products.

Even though some plant-based milks or grains may have been fortified with vitamin B12, vegan diets are often limited in this vitamin, putting people at risk of deficiency.

If you eat a healthy, varied diet, preventing a vitamin B12 deficiency should be easy. However, if you think that you might be at risk, speak to your doctor.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can most often be prevented or resolved with oral or intramuscular injections.

[box]Risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency include a decreased ability to absorb this vitamin due to low hydrochloric acid secretion, certain medications or gastrointestinal disease and surgeries. Vegans are also at risk since B12 is only found in animal products.[/box]

The Bottom Line

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that you must obtain through diet or supplements.

It’s responsible for many bodily functions and may benefit your health in various ways, such as by preventing major birth defects, supporting bone health, improving mood and maintaining healthy skin and hair.

Getting enough vitamin B12 through your diet is crucial. However, if you struggle to obtain enough or have a condition that affects absorption, supplements are a simple way to increase your B12 intake.