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When it comes to vitamin B12, there is no one size fits all. The different types of vitamin B12 are up for debate on their effectiveness and which one is best. Is methylcobalamin better than cyanocobalamin? Why do so-called experts swear by methylcobalamin? Which type of vitamin B12 is best for you? There is new research that may open our eyes to this ongoing discussion. Read on to see who wins this debate!
Let's first discuss the differences between these two types of vitamin B12.
Cyanocobalamin is one of two main types of vitamin B12. Cyanocobalamin (Cyan) is the synthetic form that is not found in nature and needs to be obtained in your diet or through supplementation. Cyan has all the properties to help maintain your body’s metabolism, blood cells, and nerves, and many consider cyan more stable than other vitamin B12 types. But you may wonder how that is possible that it is more stable if it is in synthetic form?
Methylcobalamin (Methyl) is the second most familiar type of vitamin B12 and is the natural form found in food and in supplements. Some research shows the retention of methyl is higher than cyan so will therefore stay in your body longer. Because methyl is considered “natural," many immediately turn against the “synthetic" cyan and go so far as to warn against taking this type of vitamin B12. Sounds kind of reasonable, but are they right to slam the door on cyan and only say to take methyl?
Both methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin have important health benefits. You want to avoid being deficient in vitamin B12 as it can possibly lead to diseases such as Graves Disease, Crohn's Disease, Lupus, Gastritis and others. Heavy drinking can also cause a lack of vitamin B12. But most Americans are not deficient, unless you are vegan.
Why vegans?! Well, it is quite simple. Because vegans usually do not have animal products that supply vitamin B12 in their diets, including meat, milk, cheese, and eggs. Thus they are at risk for being low in vitamin B12 levels.
A June 2021 clinical study on levels of cyan and methyl in vegans stated the following: “Although plant-based nutrition can be healthy when properly planned, it is almost completely devoid of vitamin B12, which must be provided by supplements. In a group of 42 healthy vegans, the types of cobalamin supplements were statistically significantly related with the holoTC value, with cyan supplements having better performance than methyl ones.“ (1)
The "experts" may be sounding the alarm about cyanocobalamin because it is synthetic. They may pick apart your supplement and warn you that you MUST only use methylcobalamin. However another recent study from July 2021 on cyan shows that this synthetic form has FDA approvals for some of the following conditions:
FDA Approved Indications
Pernicious anemia (an autoimmune disorder), Malabsorption (Impairment of B12 absorption), Atrophic gastritis, Chronic acid-reducing medication use, Pancreatic insufficiency, Dietary deficiency, Small bowel bacteria overgrowth and several more. (2)
So maybe if the FDA approves the use of cyan for several health conditions, maybe the fact it is synthetic can’t be all bad?
So you need to ask yourself, are you vegan? Is your diet full of animal products? Have you had your vitamin B12 tested recently? This is a simple test and one sure way to know if you are deficient. And if you are deficient, you want to get back to proper levels or you may experience anemia, nerve problems, mental health issues, - yes, depression!, stomach cancer and even infertility.
So don't wait to figure out which type is right for you because it may be that both methylcobalamin and cyancobalamin will provide proper levels to get you back to better health. And keep an open mind when you listen to the health influencers of our time. Do your own research to make the best decision for you!
(1) Zugravu CA, Macri A, Belc N, Bohiltea R. Efficacy of supplementation with methylcobalamin and cyancobalamin in maintaining the level of serum holotranscobalamin in a group of plant-based diet (vegan) adults. Exp Ther Med. 2021;22(3):993. doi:10.3892/etm.2021.10425
(2) Vasavada A, Sanghavi D. Cyanocobalamin. [Updated 2021 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK555964/