Do I really need an energy drink or a vitamin B12 supplement?

by Dr. Donna Tillery 

We cannot stress enough how important Vitamin B12 is to your nutrition. It cannot be made in the body of plants or animals. Instead, it is made in the stomach by most bacteria residing there. B12 (extrinsic factor) is the most powerful of the B vitamins, and the only one that needs to bind to another compound (intrinsic factor) before absorption. 

There are two types: Cyanocobalamin (with cyanide) and Hydroxy-cobolamin (without cyanide). Vitamin B12 is added to cereals, multivitamins, energy drinks and energy shots. It is also added to baby formulas and vitamins from birth on into adulthood. Babies usually have more B12 than the mother at birth. It must be emphasized that any B12, whether in energy drink or foods, takes 8 hours to be absorbed orally. So we could take B12 supplements before bedtime and have energy in the morning or 8 hours before increase energy is needed. If it is given by injection, it will be available in the body after 1 hour. 

Absorption will be enhanced in the intestine by calcium and magnesium, which help to remove the acid from the stomach. It takes 3-5 days to correct anemia. Therefore, the immediate energy from energy drinks comes from sugar (if added), caffeine and niacin that is also added. Niacin gives a warm tingling feeling and causes the face to look blushed. The key principle of B12 is to break down fats (ingested and stored) for energy, forming 16-18 ATP (adenosine triphosphate) in direct contrast to carbohydrates which form 38 molecules of ATP, and 50% is stored as fat in our bodies. The other 50% of glucose is stored as glycogen, which causes water retention in the body. 

Dr. George Whipple at John Hopkins University discovered the vitamin when he fed anemic dogs with liver. 

In the past, unwashed vegetables had B12 content with the bacteria present there. Dietary sources of B12 are liver, raw eggs, and unwashed vegetables (with bacteria) or legumes, which has bacteria in the nodules, fishes: salmon, sardines, etc., which contain bacteria from the sea, muscle meat, cheeses and cottage cheese. Vitamin B12 comes as tablets, in a spray or oral liquid, through injections, or by lozenge. The highest dose is sublingual. An injection may have more side effects in the lung, heart, skin and lowers potassium in body. This occurs because potassium is taken up in the cells, when anemia is corrected. 

Although B12 is water soluble, the body stores this vitamin in the liver. It takes about 3 months to become deficient. Therefore it does not have to be taken more often like the other water-soluble vitamins. Its key word is ENERGY. Energy in the body is making and breaking ATP chemical bonds. 1/4th of the world’s supply of synthetic B12 is made in France and 3/4th made in China. The goal of B12 therapy is to maintain the brain’s electrical activity in alpha rhythms at 8-12cycles per second, which is not thinking too fast or too slow. This type of thinking develops at adolescence when the brain is creative and there is increased serotonin and elevated moods. Additional Serotonin comes from Vitamin B6, Fish oils, and Tryptophan. This brain rhythm cycle is decreased, by low blood glucose, low body temperature, low adreno-glucocorticoid hormones, like hydrocortisone, etc., and high carbon dioxide (e.g eating high carbohydrates), opening eyes too long and focusing on objects. 


B12 increase fat metabolism to form fatty acids which forms acetic acid, then citric acid in the Krebs cycle (aerobic cycle, increased by exercise), and later carbon dioxide and water. Fats form phospholipids (phosphate bonds) to maintain the integrity nervous system by forming a strong cover for the nerves in the brain, spine and muscles. If deficient in the muscles, there will be an unsteadiness of the ankle and feet. To complete this process it makes one amino acid (methionine) from protein. In the brains of the elderly B12 is proven

to decrease brain shrinkage and propensity toward Alzheimer’s disease. In the general population B12 decreases allergic reactions in the body by increasing suppressor-T cells, (the cells that fight allergens) and it decreases fatigue. 

B12 aids DNA and nucleic acid production because it has one of the ingredients when B12 acts as a coenzyme, which is deoxy-adenosyl which enhances DNA synthesis and cellular metabolism for energy and growth. B12 also increases the neuro-chemical: SAMe,( S-adenosyl methionine) from homocysteine which is used by the body to convert B12 to folic acid, therefore if B12 is decreased, folic acid will be decreased as well. When folic acid is decreased, anemia results. SAMe is sold as a nutrient. 

B12 stimulates the bone marrow to form red blood cells, which transport more oxygen to the brain and body. Adequate red blood cells prevent anemia. An anemic person and a person with liver disease will appear pale or almost yellow. Anyone with pernicious anemia, where the red blood cells remain large and do not divide into smaller cells, may have gastrointestinal cancer. B12 helps maintain the lining the gastrointestinal tract. B12 also stimulates the bone marrow to form white blood cells to fight infection, and platelets to prevent bleeding. It is a coenzyme for amino acids from proteins. B12 as hydroxycobalomin, cyanide in cyanide poisoning. 

B12 is responsible for the chemical reaction to convert folic acid to the active form in the body. Folic acid can correct anemia, but not damage to the nerves. 


The chemical structure of Vitamin B12 contains Cobalt or Cobalamin and a corrin ring. The corrin ring is related to porphyrin in Chlorophyll in plants and heme in our blood. B12 is red from the cobalt. 

Allergy has to be checked for Cobalamin and cyanide before B12 

B12 can be made in a synthetic form with activated charcoal and bacteria, with cyanide forming from the charcoal that could damage the eyes. To repeat, it is not found naturally in plants and animals. It is also made biologically in our small intestines from bacteria (the same bacteria that can cause infections).

Through metabolism B12 is changed to simple compounds in the liver, which is excreted through the bile and kidney. It has a half-life of 6 days (the time for half the dose to leave the body). 


It is recommended that vegetarians eat fortified breakfast and foods with Vitamin B12. There are certain proteins needed to make enzymes ; e.g protease  from pancreas to form pepsin, which frees the B12 bound to protein from the saliva. This occurs in the stomach. The action of neurotransmitters, including 5-hydroxytryptamine from tryptophan which forms serotonin, is diminished when B12 level is low. This is because the nerves degenerate and the neurotransmitters become ineffective. Both a good supply of neurotransmitters and good nerve structure are needed. 

Conditions that need Consideration 

Any disease of the gastrointestinal tract will lower B12 levels and the B12 injection is the preferred route of administration. Pesticides used on foods lower serotonin and nerve action will be lower. Drinking alcohol results in decreased absorption of B12, folic acid and other vitamins. Taking antibiotics decreases bacteria in intestines, therefore the amount of Vitamin B12 made is decreased. Regarding antiviral therapy with AZT, Combivir, Retrovir, etc. , depresses the brain and reflexes; they may cause anemia. Antacids, H2-blocker ( Tagamet, Pepcid, etc.)  and Proton pump inhibitors ( Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, etc.) decrease the acid content of the stomach. H2 and proton are the terms for Hydrogen, which comes from hydrochloric acid in the stomach, necessary for the synthesis of B12 in the body. 

Similar effects occurs with Antidiabetics: Metformin taken more than 5years decrease absorption by30%. Smokers should know that nicotine increases cyanide that could additively damage vision. Nitrous Oxide during anesthesia or Nitrous oxide decreass the response to nerve stimulation of B12. 

B12 converts to Folic acid, therefore adding too much Folic Acid along with B12 supplements will increase nerve damage from excess folic acid. An increase of Potassium supplements in anemia will decrease the absorption of B12. Once the anemia is corrected more potassium will be needed to replace the amount taken up by the new red blood cells. Some anti cancer drugs prevent the formation of folic acid and also decrease the formation of cells in the bone marrow during B12 stimulation. Therefore Folic acid supplement is required with some cancer drugs. 

Specific Doses for Infants Through Adult 

Oral Daily Vitamin B12 is recommended, the doses are as follows: for

infants 1 mcg, for 2 year olds,  2mcg, 4 year -olds, 4mcg, 8 year olds to adult, 5mcg, for males and and females, more for pregnant women, women who are lactating and anemic women. The elderly have less acid in the stomach. With decreased acid, or with antacids, 80%-100% could be lost in the gut before absorption. The normal population loses 30-60% of B12 in gut before absorption.  Therefore to get 1.5mcg in the body, we need 50mcg in the intestines. The liver stores 50% of the B12 stored in the body, 2-5mg in adults. 

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