Is B12 deficiency a big problem?
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 low B12. 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 Email your questions for Dr Libby to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note, only a selection of questions can be answered.
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.