How many B12 pills is one dose? Dosage and frequency
Vitamin B12 injections are often given in doses of 1,000 mcg/mL, while vitamin B12 pills often come in capsules, tablets, or capsules of 50 to 5,000 mcg. But you can’t just make B12 pills equal the dose of a B12 injection.
Vitamin B12 is essential for keeping your central nervous system healthy, making red blood cells, and creating DNA. (That’s a big deal!) And if you’re deficient, taking B12 pills or getting a B12 shot are legitimate ways to boost those B12 levels.
Here are the dosages you can expect from the different B12 options.
Although it may seem that a 1000 microgram (mcg) injection of B12 is equivalent to a 1000 mcg supplement of B12, it is not that simple.
Your body absorbs these B12 formulations differently, so you can’t just make B12 pills equal an injection dose. How often you take B12 pills and get B12 injections also differs.
For B12 deficiency, a typical injection dose is 1000 mcg once a week for 4 to 8 weeks then 1000 mcg once a month. But dosages can vary depending on whether you’re treating severe, mild, or asymptomatic B12 deficiency.
For vitamin B12 pills, most people take them daily in doses recommended by their doctor, but taking 1000 mcg per day is pretty standard. However, an oral dose of B12 is often larger because your body usually doesn’t absorb it all.
According to research from 2008, your body only absorbs about 1.3% from a 1,000 mcg oral dose and 2% from a 500 mcg oral dose. The same study found that the absorption rates of the injections were around 55-97%. B12 injections are intramuscular injections (meaning they go into the muscle), which are absorbed quickly due to the large blood supply to the muscle.
Taking B12 supplements can be an effective way to treat B12 deficiencies and is not necessarily inferior to B12 injections. If you are deficient, your doctor may recommend that you take around 1,000 to 2,000 mcg of vitamin B12.
In a 2018 review, researchers found evidence that taking 1,000 mcg of B12 and getting B12 injections had similar effects on treating B12 deficiencies. But the included studies were small and only lasted about 3 to 4 months.
The type of B12 supplement may also matter. A 2019 study found that sublingual B12 supplements (meaning the type you put under your tongue) were even more effective than B12 injections.
Older research also supports that taking 1,000 to 2,000 mcg of B12 is probably as effective in treating deficiencies as injections.
You can totally take B12 pills instead of injections if your doctor gives you the A-OK! Only people with vitamin B12 deficiencies should take oral vitamin B12 supplements (that’s about 6% of the US population under 60).
Even though you can find B12 in the supplement aisle, you really You need to make sure you are actually deficient before taking B12 supplements. Taking B12 capsules when you are not deficient can cause side effects, have virtually no benefit, and just be a waste of $$$.
Based on the research we have so far (from 2005 to 2018), it appears that supplements are quite effective in normalizing B12 levels at doses of 1000-2000 mcg. But you’ll want to work with a pro to come up with a plan.
You need to go to a doctor to get a prescription for vitamin B12 injections. Typically, a healthcare professional will inject them for you, but sometimes you can also do them at home. Talk to a pro to figure out what’s right for you.
Vitamin B12 injections are made from hydroxocobalamin or cyanocobalamin, manufactured forms of vitamin B12. These are intramuscular injections, which means they are injected into the muscles, usually in your arm or thigh.
With the sting, the B12 is absorbed quickly through the blood supply into the muscle and you should feel the benefits immediately. Within days, you may begin to see your symptoms improve and feel better.
But B12 injections aren’t just a one-time thing. You will usually start receiving injections at least a few times a week. Thereafter, your dose may change based on your doctor’s orders and how you respond to treatment. As your symptoms improve, you may only need it every two months.
If you are going to the doctor for a B12 injection, there is no need to come prepared. Before you get one, you’ll discuss the process and your medication and allergy history to make sure you’re good to go.
If you are giving yourself the vaccine at home, your doctor will tell you how to prepare and give it. You should :
- Clean the injection area with rubbing alcohol.
- Give the injection into the muscle (the thigh is usually easier if you do it yourself).
- Dispose of the needle properly (in a sharps container, not in your household trash – take it to the doctor’s office or a biohazard collection site!)
Once the dose of B12 is injected into your upper arm, thigh, hip, or buttocks, you should feel the benefits immediately.
After the shot, many people experience side effects like pain, itching, and swelling. But these effects should wear off fairly quickly.
When you first start receiving the injections, your doctor will likely prescribe an injection for you at least a few times a week.
Your dose may vary depending on your response to treatment and the levels of vitamin B12 in your blood.
As your symptoms improve, you may only need it every few months or so.
B12 injections and pills have pros and cons. So when you choose between them, it really comes down to your preferences and what your doctor recommends. Here are the main differences:
- Cost and convenience. B12 pills are much cheaper than injections. You can get a bottle of 100 for less than $10, just 10 cents a serving. Meanwhile, a B12 shot will vary greatly depending on health insurance, but can easily cost upwards of $50. You will also need to make an appointment, have your blood drawn, and get a prescription from your doctor.
- Absorption. B12 injections are absorbed directly into your bloodstream, making them faster and potentially more effective. Although science has yet to prove the effectiveness of pills, experts *know* that injections really do work – and fast. Also keep in mind that supplements under the tongue may be more effective.
- Method of application. Some people are needle phobic, others hate remembering to take pills every day. Ultimately, the choice is yours (and your doc).
B12 injections may not be ideal if you:
- have had an allergic reaction to hydroxocobalamin or any other medicine in the past
- have low levels of potassium
- have an irregular or rapid heartbeat
Again, don’t start taking B12 if you don’t know you’re deficient. Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- difficulty walking
- uncontrollable muscle movements
- confusion, forgetfulness, or memory loss
- changes in mental state or mood
- changes in smell or taste
- eyesight problems
- glossitis, aka a sore, smooth, red tongue
If you have any of the above symptoms, talk to a doctor.
B12 vitamins and injections can help treat a B12 deficiency, although your body absorbs the injections much faster and easier.
We need more evidence to know if pills are as effective as injections over time, although some research suggests they work, especially when it comes to sublingual supplements. As of now, the pros say they’re a suitable replacement.
If you think your vitamin B12 level is low, talk to your doctor.