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Can Taking Too Much B-12 Be Dangerous?

Question:
Can taking too much vitamin B-12 be dangerous? The label on my B-complex states it contains 50,000% the Daily Value!

Answer:
If your B-complex contains 50,000% of the Daily Value (DV), which is 6 mcg for adults, then it has 3,000 mcg of B-12. For people without a severe B-12 deficiency, this is certainly more than necessary.  [Update: In 2016, the FDA lowered the Daily Value for B-12 to just 2.5 mcg for adults, but this won't be reflected on most supplement labels until 2018 or 2019.]  

Taking some B-12 is advisable for people over the age of 50 (when you're less able to extract B-12 from food), as well as for those taking medications that interfere with B-12 absorption, strict vegetarians, alcohol and drug abusers, people recovering from surgery or burns, and those with bowel or pancreatic cancer.  

Although vitamin B-12 is generally considered to be safe, and no "Upper Tolerable Intake Level" has been established, there are some reports of doses of 20 mcg per day or higher causing outbreaks of acne and rosacea. There is also a study which showed that a high-dose B complex supplement (with 1,000 mcg of B-12) hurt, rather than helped, people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and advanced kidney disease, resulting in a worsening of kidney function and an increase in the risk of heart attack, stroke and death.  

If you decide to take a B-12 supplement, you may want to choose one which has been tested and Approved by ConsumerLab.com. Be aware that sublingual and dissolvable B-12 supplements often contain sugar substitutes which can, in some people, cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea -- particularly if taking multiple pills. You can use the Ingredients listings in CL's Review to spot and avoid these ingredients.

In women who are pregnant, excessive blood levels of vitamin B-12 have been associated with an increased risk of autism in their children. 

In general, it's best to avoid excessive doses of any vitamin if it is not needed.

Get more information, including the Recommended Daily Allowance for B-12 (by age and gender), differences in the forms of B-12, potential side-effects and drug interactions, plus ConsumerLab.com's tests of popular products, in the B Vitamin Supplements Review >>

You can check the recommended intakes of other vitamins and minerals here.

Learn More About B-12 Supplements



Being over 50 years old, I'm looking to take a vitamin B-12 supplement. I see that many contain a form of vitamin B-12 called cyanocobalamin, yet I read on the Internet that this form is toxic. Should I be concerned? >>

I thought the B vitamins were all water soluble and did not build up in the body, so you would not build up toxic levels. Am I wrong? >>

Is sublingual vitamin B-12 really better than the pill form? >>

I read on your website that some B-12 vitamins can cause diarrhea due to added sugar substitutes like sorbitol. I have had diarrhea and never thought it could be caused by my vitamin B-12 supplement, until I read your article and stopped taking the supplement. My diarrhea stopped immediately. Can you help me find a brand of B-12 that doesn't contain sorbitol or sugar substitutes that could cause this problem? >>

Which foods are a good source of B vitamins? >>

What B-vitamin complex do you recommend for older people? >>

Do vitamin B12 patches, like those from PatchMD, really work? >>

What's the best way to take vitamin B12? >>

Are B12 injections "better" than oral supplements? Are they necessary if I have a B12 deficiency? >>

See other recent and popular questions >>
COMMENTS

Kathryn15236   July 2, 2017
In July 2016 my husband was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's. In August 2016 he started monthly B12 injections, since his vitamin B12 tested on the low end. I do not see any information about B12 injections, so I am wondering if having these injections gives too much B12 at one time?

David11495   December 8, 2016
I recently started talking a 1000 mcg dose of B-12. At the time I was on omeprazole (Prilosec) maintenance for a reflux condition. After about five days, I started to to get itching on my lower arms and neck.This occurred mostly in the evening. By day 6 the itching was very intense (read tear-my-skin-off itching). As I usually do, I considered what had changed in my diet and looked for possible side effects of B-12. Sure enough my situation was described and 50 mg of diphenhydramine was suggested to obtain relief. It worked in less than 30 minutes.

christine11389   November 14, 2016
I have a rare disease associated with frequent RAS (recurrent aphthous stomatitis) and read B12 can help with that. Do you know about this and how much B12 if any would you recommend? Thanks

ConsumerLab.com   November 30, 2016
Hi Christine - We've now answered your question here: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/cancer-sores-aphthous-stomatitis/

JL11093   July 20, 2016
Male Age 78, reasonably good health, quite active, take a number of vitamins. I get very tired in the early afternoon ... Taking 5,000 B-12 sublingual MethylCobuline about 10 am makes a huge difference ... I can remain active into the evening. Normal sleep pattern is 9 pm to 5 am. Stopped B-12 and tiredness returned.... tested several cycles over several months with same results ( a few days off or on confirms efficacy) ... it works great for me. Wife 76 has same results.

David11564   January 4, 2017
I found that 300mg daily Niagen (similar to B3) quite effective in providing more energy. It produces NAD+ which is part of the mitochondria energy cycle.

ConsumerLab.com   January 4, 2017
Hi David - Thank you for sharing your experience. You may be interested in the CL Answer about Niagen: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/niagen/

Dr Wm Martin11047   July 6, 2016
Can you add detail to the "study which showed that a high-dose B complex supplement (with 1,000 mcg of B-12) hurt, rather than helped, people with diabetes and advanced kidney disease"? What kind of hurt, what kind of diabetes, and how was B-12 identified as the culprit?

ConsumerLab.com   July 8, 2016
Hi Dr. Martin - We've now added information in the answer above to address your questions. You can also find information about the study in the "Concerns and Cautions" section of the B Vitamins Review: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/bvitamins/#cautions

Dr Wm Martin11063   July 8, 2016
Just so I'm clear: The test subjects had both diabetes and advanced kidney disease? Thanks.

ConsumerLab.com   July 8, 2016
Yes, they had diabetes (either type 1 or type 2) as well as kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy).

Rose 9831   June 19, 2016
I take 1 mg. B12 (sublingual) 2 x a day. It has really helped with the ringing in my ears.

GERHARDT11003   June 24, 2016
It's very irritating for you to post expressions like ". . .it has 3,000 mcg of B-12. . ."
Why not use "u" (lower case U) for micro and "m" for prefix meaning milli ?
The above is better expressed as ". . . 3 mG (milligram). . ." You do not help bring our nation up to speed in using normal metric prefixs. The US is only one of two or three countries in avoiding NORMAL international metric prefixes.
u = micro m = milli M = Mega
METRIC PREFIXES 101 :
tera = T , giga = G , mega = M. , kilo, = k , milli = m , micro = u
mcg = very poor expression intended to mean micro.

CHEERS.

ConsumerLab.com   June 24, 2016
Hi Gerhardt - We are aware that ug (or more correctly, μg - using the Greek letter Mu) represents micrograms. However, the alternate use of "mcg" is still recommended when communicating medical information in the U.S. and we believe that it is more understandable to our readers, most of whom are not scientists.


John11190   August 24, 2016
Good answer. Thank you!

jennifer12810   March 8, 2017
Yes! Some of us take more time to switch over to European ways!

Henry13872   March 29, 2017
I strongly support Gerhardt's suggestion. To suggest it takes scientific knowledge to understand basic symbols which alternately simplify the contents at a glance is a bit insulting to the consumer intelligence. Additionally, when listed ingredients and nutritional amounts are shrunk down on labels to the point of requiring a magnifying glass to read without straining,
--- It further underscores the difficult hurdles most consumers encounter in an industry that is poorly monitored, overrun with production standards
and methods which threaten human health. Your recent article suggesting 62% of pill manufacturing facilities have non-compliant record histories (going from memory so correct me if wrong), points to some potential health risks to us, the consuming public .
--Given the announced budget cuts targeting FDA and EPA, existing deficient inspection protocols and schedules are going to increase adverse health effects.
It is a documented fact 17% of imported foods from Mexico are found to be contaminated . Although I'm getting off topic a bit, I just want to conclude the very reason I subscribed to ConsumerLabs is to obtain information that is not adequately
made available to the public, and many of us are sure to increase the level of concerns in this forum, given the exposure of so many harmful substances we experience daily .

ConsumerLab.com   April 6, 2017
Thank you for your kind words, Henry. You are correct about the percentage of dietary supplement manufacturing sites found by the FDA to have manufacturing violations in 2016: https://www.consumerlab.com/recall_detail.asp?recallid=14053

Marsha11324   October 3, 2016
"mg" and "mcg" is how most of our vitamins are labeled. I also take a prescription thyroid that is labeled as "MG". Not everyone who posts here is an M.D.

Susan 12804   March 8, 2017
Yeah, but we are used to using mcg for micrograms. Using "u" is confusing to most people; except, lab workers.

Virginia 12850   March 23, 2017
I appreciated this contribution and am glad to also have read the commentary to it. Informative!

Bruce9781   June 12, 2016
I read a lot and there was/is a consistent thread to take the methylcobalamin form (not the cyanocobalamin form) sublingually. So, I take one 5,000 methylcobalamin sublingually about once a week.

My doctor says she is happy with my B-12 level.

ConsumerLab.com   June 13, 2016
Hi Bruce - Thank you for sharing your experience using this form of B-12. You can find more about the different forms of B-12, and sublingual B-12, here: https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/bvitamins/#cobalamin

John8694   May 11, 2016
I took B-12 because of all the Hype, turns out I was normal and in a blood test, my B-12 was high and the doctor told me to quit taking it, it was dangerous to take too much!

JOHN8666   May 3, 2016
Years ago (over 40 years ago), my family doctor did a house call when my ex-wife was really sick. He gave her and injection of B-12 and it really perked her up. He was ready to put her in the hospital but didn't need to after the injection.

I have taken oral B-12 for many years. I am unaware of any negative side effects. Have taken as much as 5,000 mcg per say but take about 300 mcg now.

Everyone's system is different.

ConsumerLab.com   May 3, 2016
Hi John - Thank you for sharing your experience. From your description it sounds like your ex-wife might have had a B-12 deficiency.

Karen6884   July 30, 2015
My doctor administered a B-12 injection for my daughter and she had severe adverse neurological reaction. It has been over 1 yr and she still has evidence of side effects. We have been told B12 toxicity is uncommon. Has anyone experienced such side effects?

lynne11193   August 24, 2016
Please see my comment on High B12 levels and the MTHFR gene.

Carol 8707   May 15, 2016
YES! My doctor gave me Vitamin B!2 last August -- I did have a severe neurological reaction that lasted for several hours whenI wanted to jump out of my skin, and while it calmed down a bit, I have not been the same since. I did my own research and discovered it could cause such a reaction in those who are histamine sensitive. I have been following a strict low histamine diet, and at least am somewhat functional, but lost 7 months of my life to anxiety, depression, and what I can only call heebie-jeebies. You must find a naturopath or other practitioner who understands this relatively newly isolated condition. Believe me, it has been hell.

lynne11194   August 24, 2016
You are 100% right Carol. If you have the gene that doesn't function properly, MTHFR, you cannot metabolize B vitamins correctly. A LOT of people have this issue and don't know about it!
Google MTHFR there are a lot of informative websites about this condition.

ConsumerLab.com   September 22, 2016
Hi Lynne - You can find more information about this in our CL Answer about the MTHFR gene mutation (https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/gene-mutation_b-vitamins/) and in the B Vitamins Review (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/bvitamins/#mthfr).

Dale11213   August 30, 2016
You, and the woman above whose daughter had bad reactions to B-12, may have methylation issues that sometimes make one intolerant of methyl-B12. If you have an MTHFR snp (as I do) with other snps that ride along with it, you may do better with a combination of adeno-B12 and hydroxo-B12. It made an amazing difference for me. I use the ones from Seeking Health. Hope this helps.

ConsumerLab.com   August 30, 2016
Hi Dale - Thank you for sharing your experience with these forms of B-12. You may be interested in our CL Answer about MTHFR mutation and B vitamins: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/_/gene-mutation_b-vitamins/

ConsumerLab.com   May 17, 2016
Hi Carol - As noted in our Review (https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/_/bvitamins/#acne), although rare, there have been reports of possible allergic reaction to vitamin B12 supplementation.

Ellen9841   June 20, 2016
Yes, I believe that is somewhat similar to my experience from taking the B12, 1,000 mcg daily. Too bad the dr. didn't understand.

Ellen9842   June 20, 2016
Now I have a-fib because it stressed my heart so much and they don't get that either.

Elizabeth6866   July 15, 2015
My ex-husband told me he received vitamin B12 injections from his doctor, and afterwards suffered extreme itching. I recommended the sublingual B12 tablets instead of the injections. The large amount received at one time could cause itching.

Ellen317   December 12, 2014
I took B12 1,000mcg for six months. Didn't feel any different. Went off it and have been suffering from speeding heart and palpitations, problems I never had before the drug.

Richard318   December 12, 2014
Hello-
I'd just add a friendly reminder that correlation doesn't guarantee causation. I recognize that your heart symptoms could be connected to going off the supplement, but it could also be coincidence, meaning there is something else causing the new problems. I hope you'll get your symptoms checked by a doctor soon.
Respectfully-
RB

Ellen392   January 14, 2015
The heart rhythm problem is definitely from taking too much B12. Going off the 1,000 mcg stressed my heart but the doctors who prescribe these things wash their hands of you when you come back to them with problems.

Arch320   December 13, 2014
I have taken B12 supplements and also some shots now and then in the past without any discernable effect. It may be that enough of this vitamin is enough and I was getting enough in the diet.

Gary313   December 11, 2014
WHEN DR ANDREW WEIL ON THE OZ SHOW (TUE JLY 22 S5/EP172) - WARNED AGNST USING RETINOL TWICE SAYING THT IT ACCELERATES SKIN CANCER IT MADE ME WORRY ABOUT OTHER SKIN CREAMS THAT CONTAIN VITS THAT PROMOTE CELL GROWTH --WHAT EFFECT DOES Vitamin C L-Ascorbic Acid Serum HAVE ON SKIN CANCER CELLS??

Rajita315   December 11, 2014
I think it is more complex... using serums, creams, that help cell rejuvenation and to firm and tighten and make skin look younger, they all make skin more sensitive to sun exposure. ( what is a huge cause of skin cancer)
It is crucial to be aware to always wear sun protection, when outside and reapply when needed.I have been using Vit C serums since years under my sun cream and believe it actually helps preventing sun rays to damage my skin. And I live in Hawaii.
Bottomline: using strong Vit serums, doing laser treatment, peels.... they all demand to stay out of the sun as much as possible.

Gary319   December 13, 2014
THANKU - BUT I DONT BELIEVE DR WEIL WAS TALKING ABOUT SUN & SERUM - MY ? IS LEGIT & FUNDAMENTAL -WHAT EFFECT DOES Vitamin C L-Ascorbic Acid Serum HAVE ON SKIN CANCER CELLS??

Vi307   December 10, 2014
When my 70 yr mother would have severe vertigo, a
B12 injection stopped the vertigo almost immediately.
It was years later we learned B12 deficiencies were common
for people being treated with antacids for ulcers.

ray306   December 10, 2014
there are certain drugs that rob your body of B12 (metformin and antacids) thereby creating a need for supplementation.

Andrew301   December 10, 2014
My father, in his late 80s, had to switch from oral high dose Vitamin B12 to biweekly B12 injections to manage pernicious anemia (loss of intrinsic factor). Without the B12 shots, he became very lethargic. I think older folks should check their B12 level and if deficient, try high dose oral B12. If that doesn't work, consider injections.

Kathleen5817   June 24, 2015
Sublingual tablets you suck have now been found to be as affective as injections -- in some studies I've read. The usual protocol is 2 weeks of sublingual daily initially, followed by a tablet about once a month or once a week. I believe the daily dose recommended was 1000mcg or 2000 mcg. It worked for me - my levels went up to 500 in a blood test (from 199 or 200) homocystine levels down. You can find these B12 studies on line, I don't have the reference in hand, also I am not an MD or PHD, just my personal experience.

K11286   September 20, 2016
IT COULD BE B12 ? An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses .writing by SALLY M. PACHOLOK,R.N.,B.S.N.&JEFFREY J. STUART, D.O. MAY BE THE ANSWER.

Samantha298   December 10, 2014
Genetics play a huge role in how much one needs.

Martha297   December 10, 2014
I have always felt it was better to take a B complex rather than individual B supplements. I take two tablespoons of nutritional yeast (all the B vitamins), and later in the day a B-50 capsule, and at 86 I am doing very well health wise.

Kathleen5818   June 24, 2015
I agree somewhat, altho I am only deficient in B12. I take my B12 with a multivitamin and followed by a full meal -- around lunch time when digestion is excellent (noon to 1pm or 2pm in daylight savings time).

James8652   April 24, 2016
If you take all B's in one pill how would you know which one is the problem?

sharon296   December 10, 2014
It helps neuropathy and phathom pains. I take 3,000 every day and people on amputee site take 5,000....some take it two times a day. I tried to take that much and I broke out in hives.

Lynn8680   May 8, 2016
I am concerned about absorption so I take a 5-MTHFR formula as a topical cream. A friend who has the genetic malfunction (MTHFR test) was told by her doctor to use this rather than Cerafolin. Sounded good to me so I have opted for this formula and a TransDHEA Cream. The 5-MTHFR formula comes out red but completely disappears when I rub it in.


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This CL Answer initially posted on 12/10/2014. Last updated 8/7/2017.
ConsumerLab.com members may submit questions to CLAnswers@ConsumerLab.com. We read all questions and try to answer those of popular interest.

 

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