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The Significant Differences Between Active & Inactive B12


What do you know about B12 and your body?  Most people know it’s essential, but do you know why?  And did you know there are two different types of B12?

B12 is a vitamin our body needs for optimal functionality.  It’s found in both animal and plant-based products. Many are under the impression that active B12 is mainly found in animal products, but that’s not quite true!  Plant-based foods can contain it too.

Regardless, the bottom line is that everybody should be getting regular B12 checks and supplementing due to B12 being decreasingly abundant in our food - animal or plant.  Unfortunately, a lot of soil lacks the bacteria that produce B12, so it can be harder to find in plants.

This week we're going to take more of a look at why B12 is needed, what B12 does in the body, and the difference between active and inactive B12.

What Is B12?

B12 is a water-soluble vitamin required for our body to function at optimal capacity. It’s more often found in animal products like meat, fish, and eggs, which means that we on plant-based diets are best to be sure we have a source of it!  Vegans & vegetarians can get their B12 from mushrooms & some algae, nutritional yeast, cereal, and fortified food & drinks. 

Active B12 is actually produced by bacteria (not by animals!).  The reason that meat is so high in B12 is that it’s injected into the animal to boost nutritional content.  Much like with vegetables, the soil of commercial farms can lack B12 due to being high turnover commercial farms.  Herbicides, pesticides, and overuse disrupts the soil microbiome and degrades natural nutritional properties.

Why is B12 important, and what does it do in the body?

If you don’t already know, B12 is crucial for our body's function.  B12 is responsible for biological processes such as producing your red blood cells, building your DNA, central nervous system function, and energy production.  If you are low in B12, your body will not produce enough red blood cells, resulting in a lack of oxygen in your bloodstream - or anaemia. 

Some symptoms of B12 deficiency (anaemia) include;

  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Constipation
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you must get a test done and uncover any deficiency before it becomes a bigger problem.  While it may not seem like an issue initially, a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to more severe health complications.  Long-term B12 deficit may start showing up in the form of tingling in the legs and hands, diarrhoea, and even death in more extreme cases.  There are also neurological symptoms such as mild depression and memory loss.  B12 deficiency has also been linked to dementia. 

For more information on smart supplementation, check out the article on B12 by Nourish Magazine

What is the difference between active and inactive B12?

Vitamin B12 can bind to two types of proteins - one is transcobalamin, and the other is haptocorrin. B12 bound to the haptocorrin protein is not taken up by the body and, as mentioned earlier, can even block the uptake of active B12.  You can read more about the scientific background of active and inactive B12 here.

Regarding a blood screening, the results will break your B12 levels into two categories under ‘Total B12’ - Active and inactive.  You only need to be worried about your active B12 levels, as this is the only B12 used by the body.

When was the last time you had your B12 levels checked & how did it turn out?  Do you have any recommendations for supplements?  Let the community know in the comments section!


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