Vitamin B12 is an essential micronutrient that plays a vital role in keeping you healthy. As a result, it’s important to determine whether you have healthy B12 levels. But did you know that it’s also possible to get a vitamin B12 test kit right at home? Keep reading to learn more about vitamin B12 deficiency and how to get a home vitamin B12 test.
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamin, and it’s a water-soluble micronutrient. That means that your body can’t store large amounts of vitamin B12 — instead, any excess vitamin B12 that you consume is flushed with your urine, which is why you need to consume vitamin B12 regularly to keep your levels up.
According to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, vitamin B12 becomes bound to the protein you eat. Once the food is in the stomach, hydrochloric acid unbinds the vitamin B12 from the protein, resulting in free vitamin B12. Then, this free vitamin B1 binds to another substance called intrinsic factor, which allows it to be absorbed in the small intestine.
There are different dietary sources where you can get vitamin B12 from, including:
- Dairy products
- Fortified plant-based milks
- Fortified cereals
Since most sources of vitamin B12 are animal-based, people who don’t consume animal products could benefit from taking a B12 supplement. These supplements contain the free form of vitamin B12, which makes this micronutrient easier to absorb.
Functions of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is necessary for your body to carry out different vital processes. According to the Mayo Clinic, some of the functions of vitamin B12 include:
- Red blood cell formation
- Cell metabolism
- DNA production
- Nerve function
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency isn’t common in developed countries, including in the US. However, people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet and don’t monitor their B12 intake are more prone to suffering from low vitamin B12 levels.
But there are other risk factors that increase your likelihood of vitamin B12 deficiency. For example, a lack of intrinsic factor, since this substance is needed to absorb vitamin B12. Lack of intrinsic factor can be associated with chronic gastritis, past surgery to remove part of the stomach or intestines, and certain autoimmune diseases.
The main consequence of vitamin B12 deficiency is anemia. Lack of vitamin B12 results in anemia because this vitamin is essential for your body to produce red blood cells. When you have anemia, you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry sufficient oxygen to all your tissues.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, some of the signs and symptoms of low vitamin B12 can include:
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or tingling sensations in your hands or feet
- Decreased appetite
- Difficulty walking
- Irritable mood
- Weight loss
- Smooth tongue that feels tender
- Fast heart rate or palpitations
Best vitamin B12 home test options
The good news is that at-home vitamin B12 test kits have become available in recent years. Thanks to these vitamin B12 home test kits, you won’t have to worry about scheduling a medical checkup or going to a walk-in lab everytime you need to get a vitamin B12 test.
However, it’s important to choose a trustworthy provider if you want to get a vitamin B12 test at home. Just like with any other type of lab test, a low-quality test could result in inaccurate test results. We have compiled some of the best options if you want to test B12 at home below.
This company offers different home tests that include a vitamin B12 test. They offer a dedicated home B12 test, but B12 testing is also included in some of the options they offer, such as the Essential Vitamin Test (test for vitamins B12, D, and vitamin E) and the Micronutrient Test (which includes vitamins B12, vitamins D, E, copper, magnesium, selenium, and zinc).
- Price range: $89 (Vitamin B12 Test), $109 (Essential Vitamin Test), and $179 (Micronutrient Test)
- Time for results: test results for any of these tests are back within 2-5 days.
- Pros: LetsGetChecked uses the same labs as physicians and hospitals, so you’ll know your results are accurate. They also offer medical guidance throughout the process, and you’ll receive information from their nursing team if your results are abnormal.
- Cons: the company doesn’t accept insurance as payment, and you may not be able to get the tests you want if you live in NY.
- States availability: some of the home tests offered by LetsGetChecked aren’t available in the state of New York due to restrictions.
- Collection method: these home tests require a fingerprick blood sample.
- Insurance coverage: LetsGetChecked doesn’t currently accept insurance as a form of payment.
Health Testing Centers
This is another great company that offers a B12 deficiency test at home. B12 home test kits at Health Testing Centers include their Vitamin B12 Test, Vitamin B12 and Folate Test, Expanded Vitamin Panel (vitamins B1, B6, B9, B12, C, D, ferritin, and iron), and their Comprehensive Vitamin Panel (vitamin A, vitamin E, beta carotene, vitamin B1, B6, folate, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin K, ferritin, iron, and zinc).
The company offers other tests that include a B12 test; however, some of these tests are more specialized and meant to rule out specific disorders.
- Price range: $49 (Vitamin B12 Test), $59-79 (Vitamin B12 and Folate), $419 (Expanded Vitamin Panel) and $619 (Comprehensive Vitamin Panel).
- Time for results: the Vitamin B12 Test and Vitamin B12 and Folate test results are ready within 1-3 days. Meanwhile, home test results for more comprehensive vitamin panels can take 5-10 days.
- Pros: this company offers a wide range of home test options that can help you assess different areas of your health.
- Cons: you can’t actually collect your sample at home, and you’ll have to visit a walk-in lab for sample collection for your test.
- States availability: tests from these providers aren’t available in NY, NJ, and RI.
- Collection method: after ordering your test online, you’ll get a lab requisition to come into a walk-in lab where the sample will be taken and processed.
- Insurance coverage: HealthTestingCenter tests can’t be paid through your insurance.
Vitamin B-12 - mayoclinic.org
Vitamin B12 - hsph.harvard.edu
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia - hopkinsmedicine.org