Is B12 de­fi­ciency a big prob­lem?

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR HEALTH -

I was in­ter­ested in read­ing about B12 de­fi­ciency as my part­ner is de­fi­cient in B12 and I am con­cerned about the longterm af­fects of hav­ing lowB12. Thanks, Tr­ish

Hi Tr­ish. Vi­ta­min B12 de­fi­ciency can cause a range of symp­toms such as tired­ness, weak­ness, con­sti­pa­tion, loss of ap­petite, weight loss and mega­loblas­tic anaemia. Nerve prob­lems, such as numb­ness and tin­gling in the hands and feet, can also oc­cur.

Other symp­toms of vi­ta­min B12 de­fi­ciency can in­clude prob­lems with bal­ance, de­pres­sion, con­fu­sion, de­men­tia, mem­ory and sore­ness of the mouth or tongue. Vi­ta­min B12 de­fi­ciency can dam­age the ner­vous sys­tem even in peo­ple who don’t have anaemia, so it is im­por­tant to treat a de­fi­ciency as soon as pos­si­ble.

From a bio­chem­i­cal per­spec­tive, vi­ta­min B12 plays a crit­i­cal role in keep­ing the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the ge­netic ma­te­rial in all cells. It is ab­sorbed in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent way from most nu­tri­ents, in what is es­sen­tially a two-step process.

Firstly, hy­dro­chol­ric acid in the stom­ach sep­a­rates vi­ta­min B12 from the pro­tein to which vi­ta­min B12 is at­tached in food. Af­ter this, vi­ta­min B12 com­bines with a pro­tein made by the stom­ach called in­trin­sic fac­tor and is ab­sorbed by the body. Per­ni­cious anaemia is a con­di­tion where the body can­not make in­trin­sic fac­tor, sub­se­quently th­ese peo­ple have trou­ble ab­sorb­ing vi­ta­min B12 from all foods and even di­etary sup­ple­ments.

You can also see how mak­ing good lev­els of stom­ach acid is es­sen­tial to vi­ta­min B12 sta­tus, and this is be­com­ing a prob­lem for more and more peo­ple.

Vi­ta­min B12 is found nat­u­rally in all an­i­mal foods and is added to some veg­etable-based pro­cessed foods. Plant foods do not con­tain vi­ta­min B12 un­less they are for­ti­fied. If you be­lieve you’re vi­ta­min B12 de­fi­cient seek the ad­vice of your GP, as of­ten a reg­u­lar B12 in­jec­tion is re­quired.

You can also help to stim­u­late stom­ach acid pro­duc­tion with ap­ple cider vine­gar be­fore eat­ing to see if this as­sists vi­ta­min B12 lev­els.

I travel a lot for work, which means I spend a lot of time in ho­tels. What are your top tips for stay­ing healthy while trav­el­ling? Thank you, Elaine.

Thanks Elaine. Here are three great tips:

1. Or­der ad­di­tional greens on the side of your meal, it’s a great way to boost your veg­etable con­sump­tion.

2. Or­der a freshly pressed juice (prefer­ably cold-pressed) daily in or­der to get a dose of vi­ta­min C, es­pe­cially af­ter you’ve been on a plane.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask if they can make mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the menu – if there isn’t any­thing that takes your fancy typ­i­cally you can cre­ate some­thing your­self, you can’t go past eggs, av­o­cado and greens at any time of the day, for a nu­tri­ent-dense meal.


Some of the symp­toms of vi­ta­min B12 de­fi­ciency in­clude tired­ness and de­pres­sion.

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