What is the difference between vitamin B12 and iron?

Vitamin B12 and iron are essential for the proper functioning of the body. The lack of any of them can lead to serious health consequences. In the article we will explain briefly and concisely what each of them consists of, as well as their differences and similarities. Vitamin B12 and iron have a very close relationship that is worth considering.

Vitamin B12 and iron – What are its main characteristics?

Let’s see what these two types of micronutrients, which are so essential to the body, offer us.

Vitamin B12

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Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is one of the most important nutrients for the body; an indispensable vitamin for the proper functioning of the brain, as well as the nervous and muscular system. It also plays a leading role in the production of DNA, as well as in fatty acid metabolism.

It is one of the eight vitamins in the B complex and it is worth noting that neither mushrooms, plants nor animals can produce this nutrient on their own. Cobalamin is found in some foods of animal origin due to bacterial symbiosis.

How do we use it?

In order to properly absorb vitamin B12, intrinsic factor plays a fundamental role in the body. Once we consume foods rich in this micronutrient or supplement ourselves, intrinsic factor binds to the vitamin in the stomach.

They are then transported to the small intestine; once there, intrinsic factor is responsible for depositing vitamin B12 into the ileum. Thus, the cells absorb the nutrient, which is stored mainly in the liver. Here they accumulate for a couple of years and that’s where we’re going to be using them to fulfill their functions.

What is it for?

Vitamin B12 fulfills an important number of functions for health, which is why it is such an important nutrient; the most important are three.

  • On the one hand, it is a key nutrient in energy production.
  • On the other hand, it keeps the nervous system in perfect condition.
  • And finally, it is involved in the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen to the cells through the blood.

Still, it brings us many more benefits than you can see here.

Iron-rich vegetable foods


Iron is a mineral that is very important to us. Its main function is the production of hemoglobin, the most important element of red blood cells.

How do we use it?

Iron is present in many foods, both of plant and animal origin: lentils, broccoli, nuts, spinach, green leafy vegetables….

The amount of iron that the body absorbs depends fundamentally on the amount of iron already stored. Generally, only a small amount of any iron that is consumed is absorbed, which is processed by the intestine and then passed to the blood.

What is it for?

Iron plays a leading role in muscle health as it is present in tissues and helps provide the oxygen that muscles need to function properly. In addition, it significantly aids the creation of neural networks to prevent diseases such as dementia. It also participates in the transport of oxygen between cells.

Differences between B12 and iron

Many people consider vitamin B12 and iron to be the same thing. The truth is that they are two very different nutrients, although they are interrelated. The organism needs both of them equally in order to function, both physically and mentally.

On the one hand, B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver for several years. Iron is indispensable for the transport of oxygen through the blood; its storage is much lower, as is the amount we absorb.

In the vast majority of cases where iron deficiency is detected, the cause is blood loss, such as gastric ulcers. Cobalamin is an essential nutrient in the production of red cells. Thus, a deficiency of this vitamin can lead to iron deficiency. Therefore, in the event of anaemia, vitamin B12 deficiency may be the cause, not iron deficiency, however indirectly. This is why both nutrients are often confused, although they are totally different.

Folate, or vitamin B9, also plays a leading role in the relationship between iron and vitamin B12. Folate binds to the eye cells when iron deficiency occurs. However, just as with anemia, absorption of folate by red blood cells can occur immediately after a cobalamin deficiency, as it results directly from iron deficiency. Iron controls blood folate levels. Therefore, vitamin B12 and iron are essential to maintain adequate levels of vitamin B12 in the body.

Similarities between B12 and iron

Let’s look at some similarities between vitamin B12 and iron.

  • Food: Vitamin B12 is almost exclusively found in foods of animal origin, such as beef or eggs. While it is true that there are some foods of plant origin that contain it, it is in very low amounts, which do not meet the needs of the body. Iron can also be found in foods of animal origin, such as beef, liver, clams or mussels, among others, although we also have generous sources of iron that are of plant origin.
  • Functions: Many of the functions of both nutrients are either shared or are, as we have seen, very closely related and have the same purpose.
  • Supplements: There are both vitamin B12 and iron supplements on the market, together and separately. The most common way to take them is in pill form.

We hope you’ve learned what the main differences and similarities between vitamin B12 and iron are, as well as the relationship between them. It is important to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, with foods of animal and vegetable origin, to ensure adequate levels of both nutrients and all others.

Infographics: Better food of vegetable origin with iron

Infographics: Better food of vegetable origin with iron


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Did you know the relationship between B12 and iron? If you still have doubts or want to contribute new information do not hesitate to leave them in the comments, between all of us help each other more and better!

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What are the differences between【VITAMIN B12 and IRON】?
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  1. Patricia Bull 19 April, 2018
    • Vitamina B12 21 April, 2018

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