Essential vitamin/mineral demonstrates protective benefits on testes that may indirectly support T.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin bound to mineral cobalt (thus the chemical name cobalamin) with many important metabolic roles in the body. While it doesn’t seem to act directly on T, early research suggests that B12 may help maintain the essence of male sexual health by:
- Protecting testicular health. Vitamin B12 seems to play a role in the development & expression of key testicular functions–particularly in regards to sperm production.
Known by many as the “energy vitamin,” Vitamin B12 (or cobalamin) is one of eight B vitamins that’s integral to the normal functioning of the brain & nervous system and to the formation of red blood cells. It was actually through decades of experiments on anemia (deficiency in red blood cells) that Vitamin B12 was discovered–namely in its treatment of pernicious anemia in humans.1
Today, B12’s clinical usage tends to center around anemia cases & as a supplement to the vegetarian diet, which is light on meat-egg-&-fish-found B12.2 Others enjoy B12 as a potential nootropic mood/cognitive-enhancer, especially as part of a complete B-complex combo. However, lately the vitamin has been popping up somewhere else: Testosterone booster stacks. Causing many to question: Does vitamin B12 actually boost T? or is it simply offered as an extra supply of “energy” in these man-enhancing formulas?
How Vitamin B12 Might Help T
Protects testicular health.
Despite B12’s fundamental key roles in numerous bodily metabolic functions, none of them seem to directly engage T production. However, one demonstrated effect of B12 supplementation that might help T status (or at least male sexual health) is the protection of testicular health & spermatogenesis (i.e. sperm production & quality).
While the exact mechanism underlying this effect remains unknown (anti-inflammation? anti-homocysteine? etc. etc.), further research may help unravel the link between B12 & male health for us to better understand how to properly supplement the B vitamin for optimal T expression.
Is that it?
For now: Yes. Admittedly, for a T-booster, vitamin B12 is, well… rather boring. Which seems counter-intuitive to its huge importance in the body. It could be argued that under conditions of B12-deficiency, with all of its associative side effects (fatigue, anemia, cognitive disorder, etc.)3, T is likely to also decrease as a secondary or tertiary effect of these various side effects–and, theoretically, you’d be correct–however, nothing in B12 research suggests that this as a probably outcome. Not that you shouldn’t supplement B12 if you’re B12-deficient, but we’d suggest looking towards Vitamin B6 instead, if T-boosting is your goal. More on Vitamin B6.
In regards to B12’s effects on T, there’s near to nothing in the animal research literature that suggests of a relationship between the B vitamin and male sex hormones. Instead, the closest we have on the discussion are these two studies that link B12 with testicular health & spermatogenesis:
Study #1 – In this study, testicular atrophy was chemically-induced on rats to determine the effects of two B12 forms (Adenosylcobalamin & Methylcobalamin) on testicular health:
- Interestingly, by the study’s conclusion, Adenosylcobalamin was found to have a “preventative effect” against testicular atrophy, whereas Methylcobalamin “did not prevent the testicular atrophy” induced by the researchers.4
Study #2 – This study dove deeper into male sexual health by assessing the effects of B12 deficiency & administration on gestational & newborn rat development with regards to testicular health & spermatogenesis:
- Compared between the two groups (B12-deficient vs. B12-supplemented), the former showed significantly decreased measures of testicular health & spermatogenesis that were found reversible with later supplementation of B12. Due to this, the researchers concluded that “Cbl [cobalamin] may be an essential constituent in the meiosis of spermatogenesis.”5
While these rat studies don’t necessarily link B12 with testosterone, the vitamin seems to at least be playing in the same ball-field due its significant bio-action within the location of T-production. We’ll need further human research to determine whether or not this plays out differently among men, but the one human trial we’re left with seems to offer similar results.
Dipping back into 1984, we have a study conducted on 26 sub-fertile male patients who were administered 1,500 mcg/day B12 for 4-24 weeks to determine B12’s effects on sperm quality (concentration, count, & motility) and serum sex hormone levels (LH, FSH, and testosterone):
- By the end of the study, the researchers found modest improvements in sperm concentration (38.4% group), sperm count (53.8% group), and sperm motility (50% group), but serum LH, FSH, and T levels were unchanged by B12 administration.6
However, this is an admittedly weak study for its small sample size (n=26) and lack of a control group. With a better study design & today’s technology, we may have a better understanding on how B12 possibly improves sperm quality (although, it’s doubtful that the results on serum sex hormone levels would change).
Providing further evidence for B12’s protection on testicular health, this retrospective review on CTP’s relationship to B12 & T deficiencies screened 156 men with CTP, with 125 of them specifically assessed for B12 & T levels. Of this group, 95 were shown deficient, and 56 volunteered to receive B12/T replacement. The results:
- 24 showed improvment (65%)
- 6 reported some improvement (16%)
- 7 reported no improvement (19%)
In conclusion, the researchers suggested that B12/T screening should be incorporated into the assessment of CTP.7 For the purposes of this article, this retrospective review doesn’t necessarily qualify B12 as a “T-booster”–but it does lend credit to its role as a male health enhancer.
- Recommended Daily Allowance for ages 14 & older: 2.4 mcg daily
- RDA for men & women over 50: 25 mcg – 100 mcg daily
- For B12 deficiency, daily dosages range from: 125 mcg – 2,000 mcg
- Testosterone stacks w/ B12 can widely vary in dosage, but center around: 6 mcg – 60 mcg
- No current recommendation exists for dosaging B12 as a T-booster.8
While certain serious clinical conditions are marked by hypercobalaminemia (high serum B12 levels), consuming Vitamin B12 doesn’t seem to be the cause.9 On the contrary, B12 has no established “Upper Tolerable Intake Level” and thus seems to be SAFE at high levels–although taking upwards of 100+ mg daily under non-deficient circumstances is inadvisable and has been linked to reports of increased acne & rosacea.
Bear this in mind when considering “B-complex” supplements that offer B12 in excess of up to 50,000% DV (~3,000 mcg). Most users, aside from the elderly, vegetarians, & drug/alcohol abusers, should avoid taking high levels of B12.
Except for conditions of clinically low B12 levels, this B vitamin is rarely supplemented outside of a pre-made supplement stack or B-vitamin complex. Physically, B12 can be administered in various forms–capsule, tablet, powder, liquid–but its bio-availability largely depends on its 4 different chemical compositions:
- Cyanocobalamin. Lab-derived synthetic B12. Cheapest ∴ most common in supplements. It’s the most stable B12 form due to the Cyanide bond–which the body has to convert & remove.
- Methylcobalamin. Most active form in the body. Can easily cross the blood-brain barrier and supplies methyl molecules for additional detox support.
- Hydroxocobalamin. Byproduct of bacterial metabolism. Most common type in food and easily converted to methylcobalamin in the body.
- Adenosylcobalamin. Required by the Citric Acid cycle for energy formation. This is the least stable B12 form ∴ the least common in supplements & diet. Judging by the rat studies, this could be a “game-changer” in B12 research, but we’ll need further research to validate that claim.
Supplements in Review Recommendation
- Methylcobalamin, 6 mcg – 60 mcg daily.
Vitamin B12 benefits testicular health, but not T. Even though the ideas of “testicular health” and “testosterone” is almost synonymous. Yet, bear in mind that this assertion stems from early animal research and fairly weak human trials. While we doubt B12 will do much for T, we’d be interested to see more studies on how it engages male health.
B6 (as P-5-P) is the better B vitamin T-booster. Whereas B12-deficiency shows little effect on T levels, B6-deficiency has a positive correlation with T–leading many to believe that B6 has direct influence on T production. If you feel you’re low on T and B vitamins, our suggestion: Find a comprehensive T-booster or B-complex that offers both B6 & B12.
- Takasaki Y et al. Effectiveness of oral vitamin B12 therapy for pernicious anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. Rinsho Ketsueki. 2002 Mar; 43(3): 165-9. ↩
- Herrmann W et al. Total Homocysteine, Vitamin B12, and Total Antioxidant Status in Vegetarians. Clinical Chemistry. 2001 Jun; 47(6): 1094-1101. ↩
- Vitamin B12: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. 2016 Feb 11. ↩
- Oishi S. Prevention of di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate-induced testicular atrophy in rats by Co-administration of the vitamin B12 derivative adenosylobalamin. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology. 1994 May; 26(4): 497-503. ↩
- Watanabe T et al. Maternal vitamin B12 deficiency affects spermatogenesis at the embryonic and immature stages in rats. Congential Anomalies. 2007 Mar; 47(1): 9-15. ↩
- Isoyama R et al. Clinical experience with methylcobalamin (CH3-B12) for male infertility. Hinyokika Kiyo. 1984 Apr; 30(4): 581-6. ↩
- Cui T, Terlecki R. Prevalence of Relative Deficiencies in Testosterone and Vitamin B12 Among Patients for Chronic Orchialgia: Implications for Management. Am J Mens Health. 2016 Apr 8. ↩
- Kuzminski AM et al. Effective Treatment of Cobalamin Deficiency With Oral Cobalamin. Blood. 1998; 92: 1191-98. ↩
- Ermens AA et al. Significance of elevated cobalamin (Vitamin B12) levels in blood. Clin Biochem. 2003 Nov; 36(8): 585-90. ↩