Cobalt and erythropoetin

Cobalt is considered an essential trace element because it is the central atom of vitamin B12, which serves the body as a coenzyme. Unfortunately, other biological functions are rarely noticed, although there have been several studies on that topic. Many decades ago, it has been observed that supplementation with B12 cannot compensate for a cobalt deficiency in animals, which leads to the conclusion that cobalt also has other biological functions besides B12. Furthermore, cobalt deficiency in animals leads to growth deficits, anaemia and reduced immunity.

It is known that cobalt increases the production of erythropoetin (also known as EPO).

Cobalt leads to a reaction in the body that is otherwise triggered by hypoxia (lack of oxygen). Cobalt prevents the degradation of the transcription factor HIF-1α (hypoxia-inducible factor-1α), which means that more of it is present and active. This transcription factor induces the production of erythropoetin.

This results in many indirect effects of cobalt. Erythropoetin induces the formation of red blood cells (erythropoiesis), which improves the body’s oxygen supply and performance. Cobalt was used for this purpose by athletes as a doping agent, but is now prohibited by the anti-doping agency.

Through the increased formation of erythrocytes, cobalt helps against anemia.

Erythropoetin also has other interesting functions – it is cardioprotective and neuroprotective, improves memory, modulates plasticity and connections of neuronal networks and stimulates neurogenesis; therefore, there are some clinical studies on the use of Epo and Epo-inducing factors in brain diseases such as stroke, schizophrenia and MS.

Nickel induces erythropoetin formation like cobalt due to chemical similarity, but is not prohibited by the anti-doping agency.

Our own experience with cobalt: better concentration, mental alertness and quick thinking in a pleasant way.

Luisa Gleichauf


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