Fact check: Vitamin B12 found in children’s vitamins isn't toxic and is safe to consume, experts say

·4 min read

The claim: Vitamin B12 is a toxic ingredient found in children’s vitamins

A video being shared on Facebook claims vitamin B12 is a toxic ingredient made with cyanide that is put in children's vitamins.

"The toxic ingredient in your kids vitamins," reads the text above the video in a July 18 post, which was shared more than 14,000 times and accumulated more than 12,000 reactions.

In the video, Gary Brecka, who describes himself as a human biologist, entrepreneur and founder of a Florida-based health business, warns of the supposed dangers of B12.

"The most common form of B12 in the world is entirely synthetic. We make it from hydrogen cyanide. It’s called cyanocobalamin. It’s a cyanide-based B12," Brecka said. "It’s hard to believe that we’re allowed to make vitamins out of hydrogen cyanide in this country, but we are."

But experts say the claim is misleading. While it's true that cyanocobalamin, a man-made form of B12, includes a cyanide molecule, there is no evidence it is toxic to humans.

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USA TODAY reached out to the user who shared the claim for comment.

B12 isn't harmful, even in high doses, experts say

A wide variety of foods naturally contain B12, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products, according to the National Institutes of Health. It's also found in fortified breakfast cereal and fortified nutritional yeast.

The vitamin plays important roles in "red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function and the production of DNA, the molecules inside cells that carry genetic information," according to the Mayo Clinic.

B12 deficiency is rare in the U.S. because most people get enough of it from a balanced diet, according to the Mayo Clinic. People who follow a vegetarian diet are more likely to have a deficiency because most plant foods don't contain any, though there are some exceptions, such as spinach or mushrooms. If a deficiency is left untreated, it can lead to anemia, fatigue, muscle weakness, intestinal problems, nerve damage and mood disturbances, the Mayo Clinic says.

The most common form of B12 in supplements is – as the Facebook video claims – cyanocobalamin, the National Institutes of Health says.

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Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said in an email to USA TODAY that it is correct to say B12 in most supplements is made from cyanide as one component, but the amount is very low and there is no evidence that the amount is toxic to humans.

"Small amounts of cyanide are naturally present in many foods, such as spinach and almonds, which are among the healthiest foods," Willett said. "Of course, in high amounts, cyanide is harmful, but this is not what is being used in vitamin supplements."

A report by ConsumerLabs.com says cyanocobalamin, the man-made form of B12 found most often in supplements, does contain a cyanide molecule, but is still safe for consumption.

"Even at a very high dose, it would provide about a thousand times less cyanide than is toxic, and the cyanide is excreted in the urine," the ConsumerLabs.com report says.

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A fact sheet for consumers from the National Institutes of Health also dispels any notion that B12 is harmful to humans, indicating that the vitamin "has not been shown to cause any harm, even at high doses."

PolitiFact has also debunked the claim.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that B12 is a toxic ingredient made with cyanide and put in children's vitamins. It is correct that cyanocobalamin, the man-made form of B12 found in most supplements, is made with cyanide, but the amount is extremely low, and experts say there is no evidence B12 is toxic to humans.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: B12 found in children’s vitamins is safe to consume