Lacking energy? Vitamin B12: A nutritionist explains what it does and why we should take it

From capsules to liquid-based supplements - here are our top picks.

Best B12 supplements

by Ellen Kinsey |
Updated on

Plus: we round up the best vitamin B12 supplements to buy

Finding the best B12 supplements can be a game-changer in replenishing your energy levels. Vitamin B12, commonly known as the energy vitamin, is vital for numerous body processes, from maintaining healthy red blood cells to supporting cognitive function. However, not all B12 supplements are created equal, and finding the best supplement for your needs is needed to ensure its efficacy. We spoke to Charlotte Hunter, nutritionist for menopause platformIssviva, to learn more about the benefits of B12 supplements, why they are particularly important for vegans and vegetarians, and how to determine the most effective forms and appropriate dosages.

What does vitamin B12 do for your body?

Just like the best Vitamin D supplements, Vitamin B12 has been praised for its energy-boosting properties, but it is so much more than just that.

"Vitamin B12 is not just a nutrient, it's a mood and energy booster," Charlotte tells us. "It plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy nerve cells, supporting brain function, and aiding in the production of DNA and red blood cells. Adequate B12 levels can help prevent anaemia, improve mood, and boost energy levels, making it an essential nutrient for overall health and wellbeing."

By incorporating the best supplements into your routine, you can ensure optimal blood and nerve cell health while safeguarding against severe conditions.

Disclaimer: Always talk to your GP before starting a new supplement regime.

The best B12 supplements at a glance:

Best Vitamin B12 supplement overall: Holland and Barrett High Strength Slow Release Vitamin B12 - Buy now on Holland and Barrett
Best liquid B12 supplement: Nature Provides B12 Liquid Vitamin Drops - Buy now on Amazon UK
Best B12 supplement gummies: Issviva Gummies for Mood and Energy - Buy now on Amazon UK
Best vegan B12 supplement: DR.VEGAN Vitamin B12 - Buy now on DR.VEGAN 
Best budget B12 supplement: Sainsbury's Vitamin B12 100ug - Buy now at Sainsbury's

©Getty Images / Peter Dazeley

Who should take B12 supplements?

Charlotte says: "Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, fortified foods like breakfast cereals, and plant-based milk alternatives. It is essential for everyone but is particularly important for vegans and vegetarians, as plant-based diets are often deficient. Due to decreased absorption, older adults and individuals with digestive disorders may also benefit from extra support.

As a result of the hormonal changes experienced in menopause, many women suffer from low mood and fatigue. The B-complex of vitamins, including B12, are helpful when tackling stress and may boost brain chemistry by balancing our neurotransmitters. You should be able to access all you need from food; however, during stressful or uncertain times like menopause, you might want to top up your levels with a supplement."

For those following a plant-based diet, you can either find the best vegan multivitamin or opt for specific supplements that target your needs. Although a well-planned vegan or vegetarian diet can provide the most essential nutrients, Vitamin B12 is predominantly found in animal-based foods like meat, eggs, and dairy products. While small amounts of B12 can be found in specific plant-based sources, such as nutritional yeast flakes - supplementing is the most reliable way to obtain sufficient B12.

The best B12 supplements

Best slow-release B12 supplement

If you suffer from fluctuating energy levels or low mood throughout the day, then a slow-release form of B12 will be a good choice. These tablets from Holland and Barratt release B12 steadily through the day (provided you take it first thing), ensuring consistency. They're also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Customers have really noticed a difference when taking these on a regular basis, and it might just help you avoid those dreaded afternoon slumps. Many have also used this particular product as a top-up when their regular monthly B12 injections are wearing off.

Pros

  • Specifically targeting B12 levels
  • Slow-releasing
  • Frequent offers available for purchase

Cons

  • Not the best value if not on offer - fortunately sales or deals are frequent!
Strength:1000 µg
Format:Tablet
Quantity:180 tablets
Allergens:None
B12 type:Cyanocobalamin

Best liquid B12 supplement

Another vegan option, the Nature Provides B12 complex is our choice if you’re looking for a liquid supplement. Many people struggle with tablets, capsules or gummies, so this handy bottle with its easy-to measure dropper is a perfect alternative. 

It’s easily absorbed, since it bypasses the stomach and liver, and is made using simple ingredients. The drops also come in a violet glass bottle – which helps preserve the life of the vitamin by protecting against UV rays. 

Reviews say there’s no real taste, and obviously no texture. It’s recommended you hold the drops in your mouth for 30 seconds before swallowing to aid absorption. That’s something that takes some getting used to especially if – like me – you’re in a rush in the mornings! However, these drops are effective at improving energy levels and offer a potent high dose of B12.

Pros

  • An alternative to tablets or capsules
  • Some people may find that vitamin transport is better in the body in liquid form
  • Strong potency

Cons

  • Holding the drops in your mouth for 30 seconds is surprisingly hard to remember!
Strength:3000 µg
Format:Liquid drops
Quantity:50ml
Allergens:None

Best B12 gummies

Issviva B12 supplementsYours

As a perimenopausal woman, I suffer from low energy at various points throughout the day, so I was keen to try these gummies from menopause specialists Issviva. With added vitamin C and B complex vitamins, Issviva say these gummies will improve mood and energy levels, and they're right.

What surprised me is the speed at which they worked. After only a couple of days I noticed my dreaded 11am slump had gone, and after a week or so I noticed my afternoon energy levels improved too. My mood felt more stabilised too, although I can't honestly say whether it was the gummies or simply that life has been better in the spring sunshine (at the time of writing this!).

The dosage is 3 gummies per day and, at around £16.99 for 75, that does make it pricier than some of the other options on this list. However, they are specifically designed with women of our age group in mind, and contain the necessary vitamins and minerals we can often lack as our hormone levels decline. Vitamins C, B1, B6, B12 and biotin all contribute to normal psychological function and to normal functioning of the nervous system. Meanwhile, Vitamins C, B2, B6 and B12 contribute to normal energy-yielding metabolism and to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. The gummies taste nice, not too sweet, and they have no added sugar which is great.

Pros

  • Specifically designed for perimenopause and menopausal women
  • Pleasant taste with no added sugar
  • Also contains vitamins C, B2 and B6

Cons

  • One bottle is only 25 days supply

Best vegan B12 supplement

B12
Price: £9.99

drvegan.com

Vitamin B12 is only naturally found in animal-based sources, so if you’re vegan or mostly plant-based, you’ll need a high-quality supplement to support energy levels. 

This DR. VEGAN B12 supplement is higher strength than most on the market and fully vegan. My partner has been vegan for five years now and has seen a noticeable improvement in his energy levels since taking this supplement. He likes that it’s easily absorbed by the body and also it’s available on a subscription basis, so he never needs to run out.

Pros

  • High-strength supplement so great for supporting vegan or plant-based diets
  • Subscription-based so you don't need to run out
  • Made with methylcobalamin form - which is more easily absorbed by the body

Cons

  • Not a multivitamin, so best suited to B12 needs specifically
Strength:2000ug
Format:Capsule
Quantity:30 capsules
Allergens:None
B12 type: Methylcobalamin

Best budget B12 supplement

Sainsbury's vitamin B12 Yours

Day to day, this is the B12 supplement I usually take, along with a multivitamin and magnesium. The combination works well for me and the ingredient - B12 - stays the same no matter how much money you spend. Price-wise, it's still cheaper for me to buy the three different supplements than buying a more expensive all-in-one option.

I do find that when I don't take B12 regularly, my energy levels drop and I become cranky (not a joy to live with!). However, I'm also the worst person at remembering to order things like vitamins, so the fact that I can pick these up with my weekly shop is a big plus for me.

Pros

  • Low price
  • Supermarket option so easy to pick up with your weekly shopping
  • Small tablet, easy to swallow

Cons

  • Doesn't contain any extra vitamins or minerals

Best B12 oral spray supplement

BetterYou Boost Vitamin B12
Price: $15.55

Another alternative to tablets or gummies is a spray. Similarly to the Nature Provides drops listed above, the Better You spray goes under your tongue or against the inside of your cheek, for quick absorption. 

It’s apricot flavoured, and users say it’s a pleasant taste. We like that it doesn’t contain any processed stimulants but does have added green tea extract and chromium for a little extra energy boost. We also love that the packaging is made from ocean plastic, making it a sustainable choice.

Pros

  • An excellent alternative to capsule supplements
  • Some people may find that vitamins transport better in the body in liquid form
  • Travel-size
  • Nice flavour

Cons

  • The spray pump in the container may get jammed 
Strength:1200ug  - four sprays
Format:Spray
Quantity:25ml (48 servings)
Allergens:None
B12 type:Methylcobalamin

Best B12 supplement for fatigue

If you’re really lacking in energy, you might also have low iron levels (worth getting that checked with a simple blood test at your GP). This supplement from Vitabotics contains iron, zinc and B vitamin complex, meaning your energy levels will get a real boost. 

Please heed this warning, though. Iron can cause havoc in your stomach if you’re not used to taking it. You might be fine, or you might have diarrhoea while you get used to it – but it will settle. 

On the plus side… they won’t cause constipation! 

They’re not suitable for vegetarians or vegans as they do contain halal gelatine. This supplement does do a great job at boosting energy levels though, and although it did take my tummy a few days to settle, it made a huge difference to my energy levels post-virus.

Pros

  • It contains iron and folic acid to help with fatigue
  • Supports haemoglobin and red blood cells as well as B12 levels
  • Not constipating

Cons

  • Not suitable for vegetarians and vegans as it is made from halal gelatine
  • Not suitable for sensitive stomachs - can cause diarrhoea
Strength:10µg 400% (B12), 65mg 357% (Vitamin B)
Format:Capsule
Quantity:30 capsules
Allergens:Not suitable for vegetarians or vegan
B12 types:Cyanocobalamin 

Best B12 vegan food source

Although not strictly a supplement - nutritional yeast is a B12 staple in plant-based diets, and Marigold's Engevita yeast flakes are excellent. With a delicious nutty and slightly cheesy flavour, they're perfect for enhancing cheese sauces, sprinkling over pasta, or jazzing up salad dressings. Plus, they're packed with protein, fibre, B vitamins, and minerals, all derived from organic beetroot molasses.

This is a great way for vegans or plant-based individuals to boost their B12 intake, but you might still want to take a supplement alongside, as it's unlikely you'll use yeast flakes on a daily basis.

Pros

  • Delicious cheese and nutty taste for vegan cooking
  • Sprinkle on savoury meals
  • A good food source of vitamin B12 for plant-based diets

Cons

  • Not something you may use daily
Strength:n/a
Format:Food source (Yeast flakes)
Quantity:100g
Allergens:None
B12 type:Cyanocobalamin 

What are the symptoms of lacking B12?

"Vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest in a variety of ways," Charlotte says. "Common signs include fatigue, weakness, and light-headedness due to anaemia. Neurological symptoms may also occur, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, difficulty walking, memory loss, and mood changes like depression or irritability. In severe cases, deficiency can lead to cognitive impairments and damage to the nervous system. It's crucial to address these symptoms early and seek medical advice for appropriate testing and intervention."

If you're a woman who is either in perimenopause or post-menopausal and you find your energy levels are dipping, adding a B12 supplement to your daily routine might be a good place to start. Lack of estrogen at this time can affect us in so many ways, and B12 can give us a boost when we need it. You can also talk to your GP, menopause specialist or other healthcare provider to address symptoms.

Hand Holding Vitamin B12 capsule

Is there anyone who shouldn't take B12?

"While vitamin B12 is generally safe, it's important to be aware of certain medical conditions that may require caution," Charlotte says. "For instance, individuals with Leber's disease, a hereditary optic neuropathy, should avoid high doses of B12 in supplement form as it could potentially worsen symptoms. However, for most people, B12 supplements are a safe and effective way to ensure optimal health. If you have any questions or concerns, it's always best to consult a healthcare provider."

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that when your body has enough B12 in its system, any excess is simply excreted from the body - this might mean your urine is a little more yellow than usual, but that isn't cause for concern.

Dried nutritional yeast flakes, vegan vegetarian seasoning healthy food supplement

How can you determine the appropriate dosage of B12 supplements for your individual needs?

Determining the appropriate dosage of Vitamin B12 can depend on a variety of factors, including age, sex, health, diet, exercise, and lifestyle.

People with health conditions such as Pernicious Anemia, gastrointestinal disorders, or those who’ve had surgery on their stomach may require higher doses of Vitamin B12 supplements to maintain optimal levels - in some particularly rare cases; these individuals might need B12 injections.

Charlotte Hunter is a nutritionist for menopause platform Issviva

Ellen Kinsey was a Senior Health and Wellness Product Writer and has been a part of Bauer Media since 2020. She has left to study Ayurveda in India to expand her knowledge and skills in the health and wellness field, where she plans to continue making journalistic contributions.

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