Methyl B-12 is one form of vitamin B-12 – a form that has particularly beneficial effects for the metabolism. Compared with other forms of vitamin B12, methyl B12 may also be better absorbed thus having better all-round benefits.
Low levels of vitamin B12 are associated with megaloblastic anemia and nerve disorders.
All kinds of vitamin B-12 include the mineral cobalt, which is what gives them their other name: cobalamins. It is the type of molecules attached to the cobalt that ultimately gives the vitamin its structure. In the case of methyl B12, also known as methylcobalamin, the cobalt is connected to a specific structure of molecules known as a ‘methyl group’. This is what gives the form its particular impact in the body and only one other type 5-deoxyadenosylcobalmin is metabolically active in this way.
However, if you consume other forms of vitamin B12, then it will be converted into one of these active forms. This means that you can effectively consume any type of vitamin B12 and still get the same benefits.
To continue being technical for a moment, methyl B-12 works as a cofactor or coenzyme. This means it helps to activate an enzyme and in this case methionine synthase. Enzymes of course are catalysts for various reactions in the body and methionine synthase is partly what’s responsible for triggering the production of red blood cells. It’s also a substance that’s responsible for converting the amino acid ‘homocysteine’ into methionine and for producing the substances that the body uses to create myelin sheaths.
Health Benefits of Methyl B-12
Most likely you’ll already have worked out where the health benefits of methyl B12 lie. By aiding in the production of red blood cells, it can help the body to transport oxygen thereby improving energy and performance in numerous tasks. Low levels lead to megaloblastic anemia which results in low energy levels and various other side effects. At the same time, it also helps to improve nerve health via the formation of myelin sheaths. You may notice a vitamin B12 deficiency causes a tingling sensation in the extremities.
At the same time, by reducing the amount of homocysteine in the body, vitamin B12 can also reduce damage to the arteries. Finally, because methionine is used to synthesize S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe, which supports the function of proteins, DNA and neurotransmitters) it can also help to increase cognitive performance. Many people interested in improving their own focus and intelligence will supplement with some form of vitamin B12 for this reason.
Vitamin B12 is synthesized by the bacteria found in many animals and so it can be found in various meat sources including seafood, beef, poultry, eggs and milk. Vegetarians often need to take supplements or to find foods that have been artificially fortified with B12.
This should be sufficient for most healthy individuals but those with gastrointestinal issues or malabsorption problems may do well to supplement with a direct form of methyl B12 in order to get the full benefits.