B12 Capsules – High Purity
Alongside pills and injections, capsules rank highly as one of the most popular forms of vitamin B12 products. Their advantage lies above all in their high purity levels: unlike pills, capsules can be produced almost entirely free of additives and mostly contain just the active ingredient and natural cellulose. On the whole, vitamin B12 capsules are vegan, meaning they are particularly popular amongst vegetarians and vegans.
The effectiveness of oral products is meanwhile very well proven and in many cases has replaced injections as a treatment.1 Vitamin B12 capsules are therefore the average choice for all people who simply want to take the purest active ingredient and would prefer to avoid the unnecessary additives like harmful flavourings and colours, which are found most commonly in vitamin B12 pills.
Vitamin B12 Capsules: the Active Ingredients
Just like with all other B12 products, vitamin B12 capsules have different active ingredients to choose from. In this case, there are four – which are briefly compared in the table below.
Suitable for who?
An artificial form of B12, which is practically never found in the body. It cannot be used directly by the body, and is converted into another of the forms. Very simple and stable to produce.
Is converted in the body into a natural form of B12 and cyanide. Therefore not suitable for smokers. A different active ingredient should be taken as part of a detoxification course. In order to obtain a usable form of B12, numerous metabolic steps are required within the body.
Most affordable and long-standing active ingredient, so very well researched. Suitable for covering the daily requirements of healthy people. Not suitable for smokers. Not to be used for detoxification.
B12 coenzyme. Bio-identical form of B12, just like that which circulates in the body. Can be used directly without conversion. Somewhat unstable.
Good bio-availability, therefore commonly used in products. Also used for detoxification.
Somewhat more expensive. Suitable for all uses.
B12 coenzyme. Bio-identical form of B12 to that in the body’s B12 storage and mitochondria. Can be used directly without conversion. Somewhat unstable.
Good bio-availability, but far less common than methylcobalamin, thus more difficult to produce.
Somewhat more expensive. Recommended for all uses.
A form of vitamin B12 which is found in many foods. Can’t be used directly but can nevertheless be very effective. Quite stable.
Easily used, very good effect on storage. Can be used for detoxification.
Very effective at topping up the body’s B12 storage and during a detoxification course. Recommended for all uses.
Correct Dosage of Vitamin B12 Capsules
The first thing that stands out when comparing different vitamin B12 capsules is how different the dosage levels can be; as they range from 3 µg to 5000 µg. Working out which dosage is correct for a particular case depends entirely on the type of use.
After a lengthy deficiency, the body’s B12 levels are depleted and need to be filled up again. In this instance, it isn’t enough to simply take the daily requirement of 3 µg, but instead to take large quantities of B12 over a period of one to two months, in order to restore the body’s natural B12 levels. In these cases, products with very high dosages are sensible.
However, simply covering the recommended daily intake of 3 µg doesn’t fully satisfy the body’s requirements. This is down to the way in which the body absorbs vitamin B12: a maximum of 1.5 µg per dose is absorbed through the intrinsic factor, a special transport protein. A further 1% of the dose is successfully absorbed through passive diffusion in the bloodstream.2 For all doses over 1.5 µg, the following formula can be used to roughly calculate B12 absorption:
Intake = 1.5 µg + dose/100
(E.g. for 500 µg: 1.5 µg + 500/100 = 6.5 µg)
Since the intrinsic factor replenishes itself after a few hours, the body can actually absorb more than 1.5 µg over the day by this method. Those who just want very minor doses of vitamin B12 to work with should hence spread these doses evenly in three parts over the day.
The following dosage levels of vitamin B12 capsules are given as guidelines for the different uses below:
Replenishing the body’s B12 storage
1000 – 5000 µg daily
11 – 51 µg
Covering the recommended daily intake
3 x 3 – 5 µg or
3 – 7 µg
In cases of malabsorption
300 – 2000 µg
3 – 20 µg
High Dose of Vitamin B12 Capsules?
Many companies proudly advertise a particularly high dose of vitamin B12 capsules. This is, however, actually only really sensible as start-out therapy after a long deficiency. Here it is best for as large a quantity of vitamin B12 as possible to be attained through passive diffusion into the blood, in order to replenish the body’s B12 store. Such doses are pointless for maintenance therapy as the vitamin B12 is excreted without being used.
Anemia patients with a proven intake disorder should take a product of between 1000 und 2000 µg, and an effect can be seen here after around 300 µg.3 For healthy people without absorption problems, a daily dose of 1000 µg is probably unnecessarily high, however.
Vitamin B12 Overdose
On the other hand, an overdose of vitamin B12 is not something to be afraid of: vitamin B12 is considered completely harmless and surplus requirements are simply excreted. However, to avoid putting the kidneys and the body’s vitamin balance under duress, it is nevertheless recommended to take a measured and appropriate dose – the motto ‘the more the merrier!’ is often a quite unhelpful approach in vitamin therapy.
Are B12 Capsules Vegan?
Vitamin B12 capsules are suitable for vegans in most cases. Both the capsule shell and the filling are made up of naturally-occuring cellulose in most B12 capsules. However, some capsule cases comprise of gelatine, which is an animal product. In even rarer cases, vitamin B12 capsules may occasionally contain further ingredients which are not suitable for vegans. This is true for example for supplements with intrinsic factor.
How and When Should Vitamin B12 Capsules be Taken?
In order to ensure optimal absorption and interaction with other foods, vitamin B12 capsules shouldn’t be taken directly during mealtimes, but rather some time after. The optimum time to take B12 capsules is first thing in the morning after getting up, or last thing at night before going to bed.
Vitamin B12 Capsules and Their Additives
In contrast to vitamin B12 pills, which often contain a long list of additives, vitamin B12 capsules are produced without additives for the most part. Here is an overview of the most common additives in vitamin B12 capsules.
Cellulose (E 460)
Harmless, natural additive, which is excreted from the body without digestion
Like cellulose, can however pass through the intestinal wall – although no negative side effects of this are known as of yet
Hydroxypropyl methylcellulose – also: Hypromellose/HPMC (E 464)
Magnesium stearate, magnesium salt from fatty acids (E 470 b)
Magnesium compound of saturated fatty acids, can be from plants or animals, genetic engineering also possible, proven negative effect on the release of the active ingredient in testing
Ascorbyl palmitate (E 304)
Considered harmless, broken down by the body into ascorbic acid (vitamin C), palmitic acid or stearic acid
Stearic acid (E 570)
Saponification of herbal or animal oils and fats, genetic engineering also possible
Silicium dioxide (E 551)
Comes from sand, harmless and also approved for bio-products
Glycerin (E 422)
Chemically synthesized or natural
Vitamin B12 Capsules: the Standard for Oral Supplements
Despite the widespread distribution and availability of lozenges and pills, their sugar free production and their better taste, vitamin B12 capsules are still the standard for orally consumed vitamin B12 products. For those who simply want the purest active ingredient available, capsules are the obvious choice. Vegetarians and vegans can also find a particularly large choice of supplements which contain no animal products to select from.
1 Andres, E., Dali-Youcef, N., Vogel, T., Serray, K. and Zimmer, J. (2009), Oral cobalamin (vitamin B12) treatment. An update. International Journal of Laboratory Hematology, 31: 1–8. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-553X.2008.01115.x
2 Berlin H, Berlin R, Brante G . Oral treatment of pernicious anemia with high doses of vitamin B12 without intrinsic factor. Acta Med Scand 1968;184:247-258
3 Eussen SM, de Groot LM, Clarke R, et al. Oral Cyanocobalamin Supplementation in Older People With Vitamin B12 Deficiency: A Dose-Finding Trial. Arch Intern Med. 2005;165(10):1167-1172. doi:10.1001/archinte.165.10.1167.