Energy. If you’re not taking vitamin B12, forget about having energy. As The Dr. Oz Show has recommended, “End your energy crisis with Vitamin B12.” The nice thing about sublingual pills is “you don’t need a doctor, you don’t need a prescription.”
And don’t get me started on metabolism. If you want to “supercharge your metabolism and energy levels,” Amazon can deliver you a tall bottle of B12 supplements by the end of the day. Your metabolic processes will be the envy of the neighborhood. (“Is Janice ... on something?” “Yes—B12!”)
These are the sort of vague marketing claims that have propelled the cobalt-based compounds sold as B12 into American hearts and minds and blood in ever-growing quantities. They are extrapolations from the fact that B12 deficiency causes anemia, and correcting that deficiency will alleviate symptoms of fatigue and weakness. But as the National Institutes of Health notes, “Vitamin B12 supplementation appears to have no beneficial effect on performance in the absence of a nutritional deficit.”
Nonetheless around 50 percent of people in the United States take some form of “dietary supplement” product, and among the most common are B vitamins. Worse than just a harmless waste of money, this usage could be actively dangerous. In an issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology, published this week, researchers reported that taking vitamin B6 and B12 supplements in high doses (like those sold in many stores) appears to triple or almost quadruple some people’s risk of lung cancer.