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What Is Hydroxocobalamin?

Written by Dr. Edward Group Founder
Several B12 capsules.

Cobalamin is another name for vitamin B-12, an essential nutrient necessary for proper metabolism and energy production. Hydroxocobalamin is a chemical compound with a similar structure to vitamin B-12. Even though the human body doesn't produce hydroxocobalamin, bacteria in the digestive tract can convert it into a usable form. Commercial and pharmaceutical versions of hydroxocobalamin also use bacteria to create large volumes of the compound for therapeutic purposes.

Hydroxocobalamin, partially identifiable by its red color, plays an integral part in DNA synthesis and supports cell replication. The compound also has an important role in the conversion of harmful homocysteine into beneficial methionine, an essential amino acid. It helps with energy production and is necessary for normal brain function and nervous system function.

A Remedy for B-12 Deficiency

Hydroxocobalamin is commonly used to address vitamin B-12 deficiency. When the body's reserve of vitamin B-12 is low, injections of hydroxocobalamin are often used to restore it. B-12 deficiency is linked to many negative health effects, including neurologic, gastroenterologic, psychiatric, and blood disorders. There's no question it's one of the most important nutrients our bodies require. In one case, an individual suffering from seizures and psychotic symptoms achieved a complete recovery after B-12 intervention.[1]

B-12 Deficiency: Causes

Whether you're avoiding animal products or suffering from digestive or absorption issues, you may develop a B-12 deficiency. Even meat eaters who constantly consume this essential nutrient may become deficient under certain circumstances. The most common causes of a vitamin B-12 deficiency include:

Pernicious Anemia

Pernicious anemia is when the body doesn't absorb B-12 and doesn't produce enough red blood cells. People with this condition must regularly receive B-12 supplementation. Hydroxocobalamin injection has been traditionally used against pernicious anemia based on research indicating the body more readily retains it.[2] New research has suggested oral ingestion of hydroxocobalamin (or cyanocobalamin) as an alternative option for B-12 supplementation.[3]

Strict Vegetarian & Vegan Diets

Individuals who adhere to a strict vegetarian or vegan diet may not receive enough vitamin B-12. The vitamin is mostly present in animal-based foods such as meat, eggs, fish, and milk.[4] This places many health-conscious vegetarians and vegans at risk, prompting supplementation as the main avenue through which the nutrient can and should be obtained. Pregnant women who are vegetarians or vegans will also need to supplement, as a deficiency can greatly impact the fetus.[5]

Digestive Malabsorption

If the stomach or small intestine experience functional or structural damage, the body may have trouble absorbing enough vitamin B-12 (and other nutrients). People who have celiac disease also have difficulty digesting gluten and absorbing nutrients. Some medical conditions can also prevent the stomach or small intestine from properly secreting intrinsic factor, the intestinal protein necessary for B-12 absorption.

Harmful Organisms

Unfriendly organisms in the intestines can reduce the amount of B-12 available for absorption. For example, tapeworms can consume large amounts of vitamin B-12, leading to a deficiency.[6] A condition like this may lead to gastric atrophy — chronic irritation of the stomach lining. This can result in a loss of gastric cells that produce essential digestive substances necessary for the proper utilization of B-12.

Benefits of Hydroxocobalamin

In addition to remedying B-12 deficiency, hydroxocobalamin can provide additional benefits to the brain and body.

Remedy for Cyanide Poisoning

In 2006, hydroxocobalamin received approval for use as a treatment for cyanide poisoning. Hydroxocobalamin binds with cyanide molecules to form cyanocobalamin, a B-12 vitamer. As a cyanide antidote, hydroxocobalamin has been deemed safe and highly effective.[7]

A Migraine Remedy

Hydroxocobalamin has been identified as a scavenger of nitric oxide, an essential muscle regulator that also acts as a free radical. Too much nitric oxide can actually cause swelling and discomfort, especially in the brain. One study found hydroxocobalamin to be effective for reducing the frequency and duration of migraines.[8]

Points to Remember

The B vitamins are necessary for nerve function, energy production, and metabolic processes inside the body. Do not risk deficiencies of these essential nutrients! If you are experiencing symptoms related to vitamin B-12 deficiency, it is pertinent that you receive testing to make sure your levels are in check. If not, supplementation may be necessary until the proper amount of B-12 is established.

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References (8)
  1. Vilibi M, et al. Cobalamin deficiency manifested with seizures, mood oscillations, psychotic features and reversible dementia in the absence of typical neurologic and hematologic signs and symptoms: a case report. Coll Antropol. 2013 Mar;37(1):317-9.
  2. Hall CA, et al. The availability of therapeutic hydroxocobalamin to cells. Blood. 1984 Feb;63(2):335-41.
  3. Andrès E, et al. Efficacy of oral cobalamin (vitamin B12) therapy. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2010 Feb;11(2):249-56. doi: 10.1517/14656560903456053.
  4. Watanabe F, et al. Biologically Active Vitamin B12 Compounds in Foods for Preventing Deficiency among Vegetarians and Elderly Subjects. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Jul 17;61(28):6769-75. doi: 10.1021/jf401545z. Epub 2013 Jul 2.
  5. Simpson JL, et al. Micronutrients and women of reproductive potential: required dietary intake and consequences of dietary deficiency or excess. Part I--Folate, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2010 Dec;23(12):1323-43. doi: 10.3109/14767051003678234. Epub 2010 Apr 7.
  6. Vuylsteke P, et al. Case of megaloblastic anemia caused by intestinal taeniasis. Ann Hematol. 2004 Jul;83(7):487-8. Epub 2004 Jan 17.
  7. Shepherd G, Velez LI. Role of hydroxocobalamin in acute cyanide poisoning. Ann Pharmacother. 2008 May;42(5):661-9. doi: 10.1345/aph.1K559. Epub 2008 Apr 8.
  8. van der Kuy PH, et al. Hydroxocobalamin, a nitric oxide scavenger, in the prophylaxis of migraine: an open, pilot study. Cephalalgia. 2002 Sep;22(7):513-9.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

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