Vitamin B12 has a long list of health benefits to its name. Known to many as the energy vitamin, it has proven positive effects on metabolism, hemoglobin levels, respiratory function, and cell development in children. Recently, experts have been touting it as a weight loss supplement as well. While there is sound science behind this claim, its use is still under question. How does B12 really aid in weight loss?

The vitamin is generally administered in shots, usually given at a clinic. The procedure was originally meant for people suffering from chronic fatigue or a severe B12 deficiency. Weight loss was a side effect caused by an increase in metabolism, and people started giving and getting B12 shots for weight loss alone. This is when the doubt arose: is it safe to take B12 to lose weight?

Experts say that B12 alone does not aid in weight loss. Often, people who received the shots for medicinal purposes were already on vegetarian diets or had active lifestyles, and the spike in B12 helped speed up their weight loss. An increase in metabolism only leads to weight loss when combined with an active lifestyle, because what it does is help you burn more calories when you are active. While you do burn calories sitting down, the effect is faster and more lasting when applied to physical activity.

It’s also important to remember that B12 provides short bursts of energy. That means the benefit on metabolism is temporary; once you settle down, so does your calorie-burning ability. That’s why it was originally used as a fatigue treatment. Supplements work for people who need extra help to get them through the day; for example, since meat is a major source of B12, vegetarians often lack energy. Others are allergic to other B12 food sources and can only get it artificially.

For a long-term increase in metabolism, exercise is still the way to go. Even 30 minutes of working out can lead to higher energy levels that will last you all day, even when you’re not being active. Metabolism boosters such as B12 can be used to enhance the benefits of exercise, but not replace them. And unless you have certain dietary restrictions, the best way to get your B12 is still from natural foods: meat and poultry, dairy products, and fish. You’ll notice the effects in energy after about a week of eating right, and if you keep it up, weight loss will follow naturally.

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