Vitamin B12: Friend or Foe?

By Anthoney J. Andersen –

When it comes to dietary supplements – including vitamins – the first thing that many people probably consider is how these items will improve their overall health. Vitamins, for example, are vital nutrients that – when taken in small quantities – can help sustain life.

Sounds good, right?

But what happens when these crucial nutrients turn their back on your body, creating side effects that will ultimately tarnish your beautiful skin?

The vital nutrient in question is none other than vitamin B12.


Vitamin B12 (also called cobalamin) is a nutrient that humans need to maintain a long, and active life. According to, it’s one of the eight B vitamins used to help the body convert the food that you eat into glucose, which supplies your body with energy.

In addition to energy, vitamin B12 provides many other beneficial attributes for your body, such as:

  • Maintaining the health of the nervous system and spinal cord.
  • Production of red blood cells.
  • Regeneration of bone marrow and the lining of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts.


According to WebMD, the following vitamin B12 regimen is the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) that you get from food, as well as any supplements that you may take:

Category Micrograms (mcg)/day
0-6 months 0.4 mcg
7-12 months 0.5 mcg
1-3 years 0.9 mcg
4-8 years 1.2 mcg
9-13 years 1.8 mcg
14 years and up 2.4 mcg
Pregnant women 2.6 mcg


According to the University of Maryland, vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods. Plant foods contain no vitamin B12, unless they are fortified.

You can receive the recommended daily amounts of vitamin B12 by consuming the following foods:

  • Organ meats (beef liver).
  • Shellfish (clams).
  • Meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy foods.
  • Some breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts.


A lack of vitamin B12 occurs when the body does not receive – or cannot absorb – the proper amount that it needs to function. The following is a list of individuals that may be at a higher risk of having B12 deficiency:

  • People over the age of 50 lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods.
  • People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet should either try and consume vitamin B12 fortified foods, or consider taking B12 supplements.
  • People who have digestive disorders – like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease – may not absorb enough vitamin B12.


According to a study by dermatologist Braun-Falco, high doses of vitamin B12 can cause acne on the face and upper body. The study concluded that when given a ‘daily mega-dose’ of vitamin B12 supplements, acne breakouts were either more frequent in the test subjects, or worsened their current breakout.

vitamin b12 injectionsHowever, the study also showed that once the high dosages were discontinued, their symptoms improved.

Even though the study suggests that vitamin B12 can cause acne in high intakes, it is still unclear at what dose.

“I think there’s a link between vitamin B12 and acne,” said Huiying Li, a co-author of the new study and an assistant professor of pharmacology at UCLA’s David Geffen’s School of Medicine. “However, there’s still a lot to be studied in order to really understand if B12 causes acne.”

A 2001 study published in the journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, also suggests that prolonged – and increased excretion – of vitamin B12 may cause an irritation of the follicular cells (cells found in the thyroid glands) and produce an inflammatory skin reaction.

However, adverse effects from vitamin B12 supplementation are considered to be extremely rare.

“Proof of a causative effect of B12 supplements on acne development will cause randomized control trials with enough subjects to see a significant effect, if one exists,” said Josh Miller, a professor of nutritional sciences at Rutgers University.


As it stands, vitamin B12 supplements are known to be both safe and nontoxic when taken in the recommended amounts.

Now, even though acne is an ailment of the body that no individual looks forward to experiencing – especially when it is caused by such a vitalizing nutrient like vitamin B12 – this should not discourage you from consuming vitamin B12 because it is an important element to the proper functioning of your body.

If you’re unsure about how much vitamin B12 is necessary for your particular diet – or which B12 supplements are best for you – then it’s recommended that you speak with your doctor, so he or she can provide you with a daily dosage that is safe, as well as cater to your overall dietary needs.