Vitamin B12 is responsible for the production of red blood cells, nerves and DNA in the body. Unfortunately, Vitamin B12 is not made within the body; it’s outsourced from the food we consume and the supplements we take. The average adult needs 2.4 micrograms a day.
According to Harvard Health, Vitamin B12 deficiency has some serious side effects:
- Deep depression
- Paranoia and delusions
- Memory loss
- Loss of taste and smell
There are two reasons for a Vitamin B12 deficiency: an individual is not consuming enough B12 to meet his or her needs, or he or she is unable to absorb enough despite how much he or she ingests.
B12 deficiencies are common among older people, in individuals who’ve had weight loss surgery, in individuals with conditions such as Celiac or Crohn’s disease, and in individuals who take heartburn medications to reduce acid production in the gut (which is necessary to absorb B12).
The only foods that contain Vitamin B12 are meat, eggs, poultry, dairy and other foods from animals. Unfortunately, plants don’t create B12, putting vegans and vegetarians at high risk for a deficiency (if they don’t supplement with vitamins or fortified foods).
The deficiency develops gradually and can be easily overlooked. Physical symptoms include:
- Tingling and numbness in the hands, legs and feet
- Difficulty walking
- Inflamed tongue
- Memory loss and difficulty thinking
- Hallucinations and paranoia
- Muscle weakness
A blood test is needed to confirm the deficiency. If diagnosed, it is important to be proactive with treatment, which may include weekly B12 shots, a daily dose of supplement pills or for mild cases, a multivitamin.
It is a good idea to check your levels if you are:
- Over 50 years of age.
- Take certain medications such as proton-pump inhibitors, H2 blockers or metformin
- A strict vegetarian or vegan
- Have had weight loss surgery, problems with digestion and/or absorption of food
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Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Publications, Editor, H. H., Letter, E. E., Executive Editor, Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Executive Editor, Harvard Men’s Health Watch, & Letter, E. E. (2016). Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful – Harvard Health Blog best online collaboration tools. Retrieved September 06, 2016, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780
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