What Does Cobalt Do for the Body?

Posted on August 15 2022, By: Dr. Aqsa Ph.D. Scholar in Nutrigenomics

What Does Cobalt Do for the Body?




Cobalt is an essential trace mineral and a structural component of vitamin B-12 (cobalamin). It is naturally present in several foods and also available in the form of dietary supplements.

What does cobalt do? The status of this mineral is measured as plasma or serum level of vitamin B-12. As a vitamin B-12, this mineral performs several important functions in the human body, including energy production and the creation of red blood cells. Research has shown that it is also crucial for the proper development, function, and myelination of your central nervous system and DNA production. Additionally, it acts as a cofactor of two important enzymes, L-methylmalonyl-CoA mutase and methionine synthase. (1)

According to health experts, folks who follow a plant-based or vegan diet are more prone to cobalt deficiency because this mineral is majorly found in animal products. Common symptoms and signs of cobalt deficiency include mouth ulcers, paleness, tingling in feet and hands, weakness, dizziness, and fatigue. The major dietary sources of this mineral include fish, dairy, poultry, oats, and leafy green vegetables (spinach and broccoli). In cases of severe deficiency, you can give cobalt or cobalamin (B12) supplements to your child after the approval of your child’s pediatrician. (2)

How Does Cobalt Function in Your Child’s Body?

This trace mineral in the form of cobalamin (vitamin B12) performs several important functions in your body, such as ensuring the proper formation of red blood cells, aiding in iron absorption in the body, regulating normal nerve activities, helping energy production, and metabolizing carbohydrates (sugars). In addition, this mineral also preserves the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, which plays a crucial role in regulating your body’s metabolism. (3)

A recent study has found that in the brain, this mineral prevents demyelination. Demyelination can contribute to multiple sclerosis, a medical condition that results in damage to the membrane that covers the nerve fibers of the spinal cord and brain. Cobalt also ensures the proper transmission of nerve impulses, which is crucial for brain health in children.

How is cobalt absorbed in your child’s body? A recent study has found that this trace mineral is mostly absorbed in the duodenum and ileum by receptor-mediated endocytosis. Any excess amount of cobalamin is removed through urine from your child’s body. (2)

Why Do Children Need Cobalt?

Though cobalt may not be referred to as often as an essential nutrient for your child’s health, it is needed for carrying out several body processes. This mineral must be obtained through a healthy daily diet and it is required in very small amounts by your child’s body. Cobalt primarily plays a crucial role in maintaining metabolism and red blood cell production. Some of the many health benefits of cobalt are listed below. (4)

  • Prevents anemia
  • Prevents birth defects
  • Supports bone health
  • Improves mood and reduces depression
  • Boosts energy levels

Prevents anemia: Cobalt is a fundamental component of Vitamin B12, which is vital in the production of red blood cells (RBCs). One study revealed that low levels of cobalt are also strongly associated with low production of RBCs. Research has shown that healthy red blood cells are round in shape, whereas they become oval in shape and enlarged in cases of cobalamin (vitamin B12) deficiency. In this large, oval form, RBCs are not able to move from bone marrow to the bloodstream at the rate they need to, which leads to megaloblastic anemia. According to health experts, when your child is anemic, their body does not have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to the organs, resulting in weakness and fatigue. (4)

Prevents birth defects: Adequate intake of cobalt is crucial during pregnancy. Several studies have revealed that cobalt as cobalamin (vitamin B12) plays an important role in the brain development of the fetus. One study has found that women with low levels of vitamin B12 were three times more likely to give birth to a kid with neural defects than those with normal B12 levels. Thus, a deficiency of this mineral during the initial stages of pregnancy can enhance the risk of birth defects. (5)

Supports bone health: Adequate intake of cobalamin is essential for bone health in children. In one study, the nutritional screening of 2500 adults revealed that those with low cobalt levels also have low bone mineral density. Bones with reduced mineral density can become fragile and delicate over time, which can lead to bone problems at a later age. Another scientific study confirmed a strong association between poor bone health and low cobalamin (vitamin B-12) levels, especially in females. (5)

Improves mood and reduces depression: Cobalt has been found to improve mood and irritability in kids. One study found that supplementation of cobalt or cobalamin along with antidepressant medications is more effective in reducing the symptoms of depression in people. (6)

Boosts energy levels: Trace minerals are essential for energy production in the human body. Several studies have suggested that if your child is deficient in trace minerals, such as copper, selenium, cobalt, and chromium, then the use of supplements is recommended to improve their energy levels. (6)

What Is Cobalt Deficiency?

This essential mineral is crucial for the maintenance of your child’s health and normal body functioning. Consequently, a deficiency of cobalt can result in several health complications in children. According to the research, major causes of cobalt deficiency include: (7)

  • Poor dietary intake of cobalt-rich foods
  • Vegan and plant-based diets

If your child is not getting enough cobalt or cobalamin (vitamin B-12), you might observe one or several of the following signs and symptoms.

  • Jaundiced or pale skin
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Sensation of needles and pins
  • Mouth ulcers and glossitis (swollen and inflamed tongue)

Jaundiced or pale skin: Kids with cobalamin or cobalt deficiency often have a light yellow or white tinge to their eyes and skin, which is a condition known as jaundice. According to health experts, this happens when a cobalt deficiency affects the production of red blood cells in your child’s body. This is because cobalt plays a crucial role in making DNA that is required to make red blood cells in the body. Without it, the body's instructions for making RBCs are incomplete, and cells are not able to divide as they need to for normal body functioning. (7)

Fatigue and weakness: Fatigue and weakness are the common symptoms of cobalt deficiency in children. These symptoms occur because your child’s body does not produce red blood cells without cobalt, and RBCs transport oxygen to your body’s cells. Without this process of carrying oxygen to cells, your child feels more weak and tired. (8)

Sensations of pins and needles: One of the most severe symptoms of cobalamin deficiency in children is nerve damage. This is because this mineral plays an important role in making the fatty substance myelin, which surrounds nerve cells and protects them. According to health experts, without cobalamin, myelin is produced differently and your nervous system does not function properly. One study has found that a common sign of cobalt deficiency in children is paresthesia (sensation of pins and needles), which is similar to a prickling sensation in the feet and hands. (7)

Mouth ulcers and glossitis: Glossitis is a term used to describe an inflamed tongue. It can also cause changes to your child’s tongue color and shape, and it can even cause tiny bumps on the tongue, which makes the taste buds disappear and stretch out. In addition to being painful, glossitis can change the way your child speaks and eats. Studies have shown that an inflamed and swollen tongue is an early sign of cobalamin deficiency in children. (8)

How Much Cobalt Does Your Kid Need per Day?

Dosing recommendation for cobalt are given in the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). DRI is the optimal amount of nutrients that a person needs per day. (9)

It is essential to provide an adequate amount of cobalt in the form of cobalamin (vitamin B12) to your children to meet their body’s nutritional requirements. The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for this mineral is provided in micrograms (mcg) below. (9)

 Age Recommended daily amount in micrograms (mcg)
0-6 months 0.4 mcg
7-12 months 0.5 mcg
1-3 years 0.9 mcg
4-8 years 1.2 mcg
9-13 years 1.8 mcg
14-18 years 2.4 mcg
19+ years 2.4 mcg


Should You Give Cobalt Supplements to Your Kids?

Cobalt or cobalamin supplements are likely safe for children when taken orally and in small doses of less than 1.4 mg per day. Although its supplements are available and safe, it is still better to fulfill your child’s cobalt needs through their daily diet of healthy foods. This is because mega doses of cobalt supplements can be toxic for your child and because healthy foods contain other vitamins and minerals that they need daily! (8)

Foods That Are Rich in Cobalt

Major dietary sources of this trace mineral include nuts, poultry, fish, meat, dairy products, and eggs. In addition, fortified nutritional yeast and breakfast cereals also provide a good amount of cobalt in the form of cobalamin to kids and have high bioavailability.

Here are some foods that contain a good amount of cobalt: (9)

 Food Serving size Micrograms (mcg) per serving
Pan-fried beef liver 3 oz 70.7 mcg
Cooked tuna 3 oz 9.3 mcg
Fortified nutritional yeast 1/4 cup 8.2 mcg
Plain yogurt 6 oz 1.0 mcg
Fortified breakfast cereals 1 cup 0.6 mcg
Tempeh 1/2 cup 0.1 mcg


Risks and Side Effects of Cobalt

The research has shown that high doses of cobalt supplements can cause several health complications in children, including hearing loss, heart problems, and vision loss. One recent study has shown that cobalt is possibly unsafe when inhaled. It can cause lung diseases in those who are exposed to cobalt dust in industries where you might be exposed. (10)

To prevent adverse interactions of this nutrient with other medications, it is better to consume cobalt or cobalamin supplements one or two hours before or after taking other medications. Some scientific studies have indicated that cobalamin supplements can interact in unwanted ways with antibiotics. This is because antibiotic drugs can reduce the formation of red blood cells in your body. According to health experts, mega-doses of cobalt or cobalamin supplements can also enhance the risk of certain cancers. It is always suggested that you consult your child’s pediatrician first, before providing cobalt supplements to your kid. (11)


Cobalt is an essential trace mineral that performs several important functions in your child’s body. It plays an essential role in preventing anemia and birth defects, supporting bone health, improving mood and reducing depression, and boosting energy levels. Major dietary sources of this mineral include nuts, fish, poultry, green leafy vegetables (spinach), and eggs. On the other hand, a deficiency of cobalt can lead to jaundice or pale skin, fatigue, weakness, sensations of pins and needles, mouth ulcers, and glossitis (tongue inflammation). In cases of severe deficiency, you might consider giving cobalt supplements to your child after the approval of their child’s pediatrician. Remember to give only the recommended daily dose of cobalt to your child and try to incorporate it into their daily foods rather than supplements in order to prevent the risks of health complications and other unwanted side effects of having excess nutrients.

1. https://www.sharecare.com/cobalt-used-for
2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24470095
3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22116707
4. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/cobalt-0
5. https://www.netmeds.com/cobalt
6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/cobalt
7. http://www.ndhealthfacts.org/Deficiency
8. https://www.webmd.com/cobalt
9. https://ods.od.nih.gov/HealthProfessional
10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7939580
11. https://www.cdc.gov/cobalt/default.html



Disclaimer: The content of this blog post is intended for informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not use this information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement and with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.