Are you vitamin B12 deficient?

Vitamin b12

By pH health care professionals

So how much do you really know about the famous vitamin B12? You see it in energy shots at the convenience store, but if that’s all you know about it, you’re missing the whole picture! Read on to make sure you are not deficient in this critical vitamin.

What is B12?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. It is important for a healthy nervous system and blood cells, and it helps make DNA. It’s often touted for energy-boosting benefits; this may be because B12 helps prevent a type of anemia that leaves people feeling tired and weak.

Where do you get vitamin B12?

It is unclear whether sufficient or usable vitamin B12 is produced by your body, but it can be ingested in foods and supplements, injected or applied via a nasal gel. Taking sufficient oral doses may be just as effective as the intramuscular injections.

How much vitamin B12 do you generally need?

Recommended doses are between 1-25 mcg (which may be too low), while higher oral doses of 1,000-2,000 mcg appear to be more effective, achieving the same rise in plasma levels as intramuscular shots of 1,000 mcg in weekly intervals. Overdoses are rare.

If someone feels better with their vitamin B12 tablets or weekly shots, that is probably fine. But if you want the maximum benefit, a simple blood test can give you a clearer picture of exactly how much B12 your body needs. True deficiencies tend to persist unless the underlying reasons, such inadequate intake or decreased absorption, are corrected on an ongoing basis.

How common is vitamin B 12 deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency is mostly seen in the older age groups, and not as much in younger people. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency is estimated to affect just over 3 percent of adults over 50, and up to 20 percent may be borderline deficient, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination SurveyA study in Israel noted that deficiency was quite common in the elderly institutionalized patients, reaching up to 40 percent.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is also more common in strict vegetarians, who avoid foods like shellfish, red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and cheese, which contain higher amounts of vitamin B12. Clam and beef liver have especially high B12 content.

What causes deficiency?

Deficiency is frequently caused by either inadequate intake of B12-rich food sources or inadequate absorption. Lack of stomach acid affects vitamin B12 absorption because this vitamin is protein-bound. Acid helps to break the protein bond, facilitating absorption.

Check your levels before your mind gets worse, not after!

Because vitamin B12 is a critical vitamin for neurological function, it is best to know about this early on. Prolonged B12 deficiency over years is associated with premature decline of mental function. Starting to supplement once the damage to the nerves has occurred isn’t necessarily going to help you reverse the problems.

Studies have found low vitamin B12 levels to be more common in people who have Alzheimer’s disease. But keep in mind, B12 deficiency has not been shown to directly cause Alzheimer’s, though it may worsen its course.

Are there things that can interfere with B12 absorption?

Alcohol, H2 blockers, folic acid (in high doses), potassium and vitamin C may all decrease B12 absorption.

Know the signs of deficiency, but don’t wait till they occur:

  • Neurological complications:numbness, tingling, nerve pains, weakness, motor disturbances, and a wide variety of cognitive and behavioral changes (such as dementia, hallucinations, psychosis, paranoia, depression, violent behavior and personality changes). Unexplained mental decline should prompt an evaluation for B12 deficiency, among other things of course.
  • Anemia
  • Problems with infant growth and development. Although B12 deficiency is much more common in older people, it can occur occasionally in infants too, potentially leading to failure to thrive, weakness and lack of muscle tone.

Test, don’t guess! Have your vitamin B12 levels checked at your next health assessment.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.