Anaemia,Vitamin B12 and the mineral Cobalt

B12 is the only vitamin synthesized solely by certain micro organisms, many of which are abundant in soil. It is also the only vitamin containing a trace element: cobalt. Vitamin B12 owes its chemical name 'cobalamin' to the cobalt at the centre of its molecular structure. Humans and all vertebrates require cobalt, though it is assimilated only in the form of Vitamin B12.

Cobalt is important in the plant world. Bacteria on root nodules of legumes (beans, alfalfa, and clover) require cobalt as well as other trace elements to synthesize Vitamin B12 and fix nitrogen from the air. Soybeans grown without cobalt are severely retarded in growth and exhibit severe nitrogen deficiency, leading to death in about one of four plants. Adding only a few ounces of cobalt per acre can resolve deficiency symptoms in ten to twenty one days.

Cobalt deficiency is far more dramatic in animals, particularly ruminants (cattle, deer, camels, and sheep) grazing on deficient pasture. These animals obtain all their Vitamin B12 from their gut bacteria, but only if bacteria are provided cobalt salts from pasture.

Legumes with less than 80 parts per billion (ppb) cobalt can't meet ruminant Vitamin B12 needs.


Under deficient conditions, calves and lambs thrive and grow normally for a few months as they draw on their Vitamin B12 reserves in the liver and other tissue, but soon exhibit gradual loss of appetite and failure to grow, followed by anaemia, rapid weight loss and finally death.

Marginally deficient pastures cause birth of weak lambs and calves that don't survive long.


These symptoms mirror Vitamin B12 deficiency in human infants.

To prevent or alleviate cobalt-B12 deficiency, farmers routinely add cobalt to animal feeds or salt licks. Some fertilize pastures with cobalt-enriched fertilizers; others opt for periodic quick-fix B12 injections. With any of these measures, all symptoms are reversed and Vitamin B12 in milk and colostrums dramatically increases.

The implication for humans subsisting on vegetarian diets is profound. Vitamin B12 synthesis by indigenous bacteria is known to occur naturally in the human small intestine, which is the primary place Vitamin B12 is absorbed. As long as gut bacteria have cobalt and certain other nutrients, they produce this vital vitamin/mineral B12. In principle then, internal Vitamin B12 synthesis could fulfil our needs without any Vitamin B12 provided by diet. 

However, if COBALT in our diet is on the wane, perhaps the problem isn't so much lack of B12-synthesizing intestinal flora, but more a lack of cobalt, the element with which bacteria weave their magic, in the very soil itself, with all the anaemia problems that it poses.


When the sympathetic nervous system is activated by stress, digestion becomes a low priority and hydrochloric acid HCL secretion in the stomach to break down protein can dramatically decrease. HCL is secreted from the same parietal cells in the stomach as intrinsic factor, which is essential for attaching to vitamin B12 and facilitating its absorption.


It is worth noting that VITAMIN B12 is notoriously low in MS patients, suggesting improved HCL would be of benefit.   


An excellent way to find out if cobalt could be part of your problem in absorbing/producing Vitamin B12 is the Hair Mineral Analysis offered by Cynthia Sillars as part of her work as a Naturopath. This invaluable test is covered in another article in this web site. Please contact Cynthia for an appointment on 07599520406. This consultation can be given by telephone at a discount of £50.00 fees. Alternatively email