by Dr. Lawrence Wilson

© November 2018, L.D. Wilson Consultants, Inc.


All information in this article is for educational purposes only.  It is not for the diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition.




            Cobalt is an alkaline-forming and somewhat toxic element.  It is widely distributed in foods.  It is required for the formation of vitamin B12, also called cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin.


Use in industry. Cobalt is used a lot in industry in the manufacture of hardened steel and other hard metal alloys.  




Seafood - sardines, salmon, herring

Meat/Organs - liver, kidney

Nuts/seeds - peanuts

Vegetables - peas, okra

Dairy - butter

Grains - buckwheat, wheat bran, wheat germ

Miscellaneous - molasses, raw sugar, cornstarch, cornmeal, some artificial prosthetic hips


FUNCTIONS OF COBALT (and vitamin B12)


            Circulatory - increases cardiac glycogen

            Excretory - stimulates erythropoietin in kidney

            Respiratory - maintains red blood cell production

            Digestive - maintains gastrointestinal mucosa

            Nervous - maintains myelin sheath

            Special Sensory - maintains vision and coordination

Reproductive - prevents congenital abnormalities and gametogenesis

Endocrine - release of glucagon, erythropoietin and T4, inhibition of insulin

            Muscular - muscle homeostasis and control

            Skeletal - maintains bone marrow and skin

            Metabolic - nucleic acid, protein and lipid synthesis

            Detoxification - methylation and sulfhydryl reactions




Š           Glycylglycine dipeptidase - hydrolyzes dipeptides

Š           Catalase (in bacteria) - breaks down hydrogen peroxide

Š           Pyrophosphatase (in bacteria) - converts pyro- to orth-PO4




The main deficiency symptom is pernicious anemia, a megaloblastic anemia that causes central nervous system damage.  Other possible deficiency symptoms are glossitis (inflammation of the tongue), and sprue, a digestive disturbance.




              This can occur due to occupational exposure to cobalt.  However, a more insidious source are mental-on-metal hip replacements and some knee replacements.  These contain cobalt and chromium.  The metal rubs against metal, and particles of cobalt flake off and go into the body.  It can be quite serious, and the makers of some hip replacements have been sued for this problem.

            Toxicity symptoms may include:


congestive heart failure                                 insulin inhibition

polycythemia                                                pericardial effusion

neurological abnormalities  and mental difficulties

thyroid dysfunction



visual problems                                          impaired concentration

rashes                                                                  dementia


hearing loss




copper, zinc, iodine, molybdenum, iron deficiency, vitamin C, folic acid




            iron, manganese, protein in diet




Because of toxicity, supplementation with cobalt should be avoided.  It is also not usually needed, as it is found in most foods.

Also use caution with vitamin B12 supplements.  Vitamin B12 supplements can easily supply too much cobalt, which is somewhat toxic. 

Some people notice that vitamin B12 supplements give them a little more energy, so they take them.  However, this is a stimulant effect from the cobalt, I believe.  It is a toxic effect, and not desirable.




Hair useful to assess cobalt status.  Hair mineral analysis has some value to assess the level of cobalt in the body.  No test can detect all the cobalt – or other minerals - in the body.

Ideals.  I use an ideal cobalt level of 0.001 mg%.  A hair cobalt level above about 0.003 mg% or about 0.03 ppm is associated with some cobalt toxicity, usually from taking a lot of vitamin B12.

An important “amigo” element.  Cobalt can be one of the ‘amigos’.  These are elements that can become oxides and irritants to the body when they are in a toxic form.  To learn more about this very important phenomenon, read The Amigos on this website.



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