Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA.
Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when a lack of vitamin B12 or folate causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that cannot function properly.
Pernicious Anaemia is the most common form of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK, this is where a person’s immune system attacks healthy cells in their stomach, preventing their body from absorbing vitamin B12 from the food they eat.
Since Vitamin B12 performs several important functions in the body, a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause acute symptoms.
According to Harvard Health, there are seven ways a vitamin B12 deficiency can impact the body.
- Strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
- Difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
- A swollen, inflamed tongue
- Difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
Low levels of vitamin B12 may also be linked to depression.
Researchers in a 2005 article published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reviewed studies of depression and low vitamin B12 status.
They found substantial evidence that a decrease in the vitamin B12 serum correlates with an increase in depression.
They also stated that high vitamin B12 status may be associated with better treatment outcome of depression.
Vitamin B12 supplements are usually given by injection at first
The researchers suggested people with depression take a 1-milligram supplement of B12 daily.
More research is needed to fully understand the link between B12 and depression, however.
People may also notice a change in their skin. Click here to find out more.
How to treat a vitamin B12 deficiency
According to the NHS, most cases of vitamin B12 and folate deficiency can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.
As the health body explained: “Vitamin B12 supplements are usually given by injection at first.
“Then, depending on whether your B12 deficiency is related to your diet, you’ll either require B12 tablets between meals or regular injections.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, eating a vitamin B12-rich diet is the best way to make sure a person is getting enough of the vitamin.
Rich sources include fish, lean meat, poultry, eggs, and low-fat and fat-free milk, the health site said.
“Fortified breakfast cereals also are a good source of B-12 and other B vitamins,” it added.
Who is at risk?
According to Harvard Health: “Vegans (people who don’t eat any meat, dairy, or eggs) are most at risk for developing a B12 deficiency because, aside from fortified breakfast cereals, the only reliable dietary sources of vitamin B12 are animal-derived products.”
Some older people are also at high risk for developing B12 deficiency, noted the health site.
Conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption, such celiac or Crohn’s disease, can also hike the risk of a B12 deficiency, it added.
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