Essential Ingredients

Dr. Luke Bucci on AnMar International, our Vitamin B12 Producer

6 min read

First, why did you think it was important to have vitamin B12 in the formula?

There were a few reasons behind this. First, we’ve taken a lot of care to make a product that could be used by vegans and vegetarians. Because B12 comes from meat, fish, and dairy, research shows that (unsurprisingly) vegans and vegetarians are often deficient in B12. Some foods (breakfast cereals) have added B12 (fortified), but not everyone eats these foods. So from that perspective alone, it seemed like we’d be missing the point to leave it out. In addition, it turns out that even the general population can be low in B12. Pregnant women, people over 50, and people taking certain medications or dealing with certain digestive disorders (like celiac) are particularly at risk. Another reason was to balance our folate since they work together in the body.

Why do we need B12?

Vitamin B12 helps keep your nervous system and blood cells healthy, and it also helps make DNA, so it’s important for some pretty vital processes. It’s also been linked to cognitive health, and also overall cardiovascular health. And it helps prevent a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia that makes people tired and weak. That actually leads me to one of the more interesting things about B12—when it’s low, you get tired. And that’s something we all want to avoid.

What were some of the considerations you had when selecting the form of B12 you used for Ritual?

The most common form of B12 is cyanocobalamin. It’s been around the longest, and is very cheap for vitamin companies to buy. And here’s an interesting fact—cyanocobalamin contains a cyanide molecule that, while not especially harmful in the small dose you see in vitamins, probably isn’t something you want in your body. Your body actually has to get rid of it to access the B12. In other words, this form isn’t bioactive—our cells have to convert cyanocobalamin to the active forms (methylcobalamin and adenosylcobalamin), a complicated process that is not always efficient. Luckily, there’s another form out there. It’s called methylcobalamin, and it is exactly what’s in our foods and our cells, so our bodies can utilize it readily. If cyanocobalamin is a nut with a shell, methylcobalamin is the nut that’s shelled and ready for use.

To be both vegan and nature-identical, Ritual’s B12 is synthesized. It’s also generic. Tell us some more about how all that comes together.

I like nature-identical, bioactive, coenzymatic forms of vitamins and minerals because that’s what the body sees in the diet. That’s what’s used in the cells, and that’s what fits. The beauty of synthesis is that it’s an incredibly clean process compared to trying to extract B12 from beef liver (richest food source). You just take simple molecules and control organic chemistry reactions. You’re left with just the pure compound. In that way, the synthesized version is worry-free and more cost-effective. Methylcobalamin is the only non-branded active ingredient in Essential for Women - it has been around since the discovery of B12 in the 1950s because it is the predominant form in cells, where B12 was first isolated.

Tell us a little about how this one is manufactured.

Our product is made in India, under very well-regulated conditions. Then, we take it to the US and blend it with what’s called a carrier. Why? When pure, very little B12 is needed in the product (like a drop of red food color in a public swimming pool). To make sure B12 is the same dose in each capsule, it needs to be evenly distributed throughout the product, and adding the carrier allows the amount to be mixed evenly when the product is being made. When you have such tiny amounts as you see in vitamins, uniformity is critical.

What about dosing—how much is in the Ritual version?

B12 is present in the smallest amount in Essential for Women - 8 micrograms per serving - just over the Daily Value. That daily dose will satisfy practically everyone’s need for B12, without waste or imbalancing other nutrients. Our bodies are very good at grabbing B12 and hanging on to it—we even have special receptors in the gut to look just for B12. It’s pretty remarkable. This amount also matches what we get from a healthy diet that is associated with good health. Just what you need, not what you don’t. Plus I mentioned the need to balance B12 with folate - we are back to the ratio of B12 to folate found in healthy diets, making it easier for the body to balance their linked bioactivity.