All of the B complex vitamins are essential for healthy hair, including B-12. This vitamin helps your body process and utilize the food you eat, which is essential for hair growth and many other bodily functions. While getting more than the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, of B-12 will not likely improve your hair health, being deficient in this vitamin can lead to hair loss and other negative side effects. Ask your doctor before adding B-12 to your diet.
When your body converts your food into usable energy, this process is known as metabolism. This is what allows your body to make use of what you eat and distribute the nutrients throughout your cells, including the ones in your hair follicles. Vitamin B-12 plays a key role in this process. You also need this vitamin to grow and develop. Additionally, it helps your body produce genetic material and red blood cells, as well as use folic acid, another key nutrient for hair health.
Symptoms of a B-12 deficiency can include hair loss, as well as fatigue, a shortness of breath, tingling in your toes and fingers, diarrhea and nervousness. Low levels of this vitamin can also cause you to become anemic, which often results in hair loss as well. Certain people may be more at risk for becoming deficient in this vitamin than others. These include people over the age of 50, whose bodies do not readily absorb B-12, strict vegetarians and those with digestive conditions, eating disorders or HIV.
RDA and Sources
The RDA of B-12 is 2.4 mcg. You can get this vitamin by consuming animal sources such as fish, organ meats, dairy products, eggs, pork, shellfish and beef. However, if you are over 50, the University of Maryland Medical Center recommends that you meet the RDA of B-12 by eating foods fortified with the vitamin or by consuming a supplement. If you choose to take a supplement, talk to your doctor first, and also be aware that your body absorbs B-12 more easily when you take it in conjunction with the other B complex vitamins.
If you experience any sudden or inexplicable changes to your hair growth or health, seek medical attention. Many other nutrient deficiencies and conditions can result in unhealthy or thinning hair. Also, be aware that if you take high doses of folic acid or vitamin B-9, this can mask the symptoms of a B-12 deficiency, which may result in neurological damage. For this reason, it is best to take B-12 and B-9 together, ideally along with the other members of the B vitamin complex.
- Goodshoot/Goodshoot/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.