A vitamin B12 deficiency often only becomes noticeable after years because the body has large vitamin B12 depots. One of the first symptoms is anemia. In addition, of vitamin B12 deficiency can cause hair loss, memory impairment, depression and other symptoms. Read more about the causes and effects vitamin B12 deficiency.
Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Causes
A vitamin B12 deficiency can arise if less of the vitamin is supplied or absorbed over a longer period than the body needs. Increased consumption or loss of vitamin B can also cause the vitamin B12 level in the blood to drop. In addition, certain medications may promote vitamin B12 deficiency.
Summarized here are the main triggers for a of vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Lack of vitamin B12 intake in strictly vegan or vegetarian diet or anorexia
- Lack of intrinsic factor (a protein produced in the stomach and necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12): Such a deficiency may arise from (partial) removal of the stomach or chronic atrophic gastritis (form of gastritis).
- impaired uptake of vitamin B12 in the intestine, e.g. by chronic inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), celiac disease or partial removal of the intestine
- Loss or increased consumption of vitamin B12, e.g. in chronic kidney or liver diseases as well as in an infestation with the fish tapeworm
- Taking certain medications: omeprazole (for heartburn and gastric ulcer), metformin (for diabetes)
Often, the body can compensate for a shortage by resorting to the stored vitamin B. For example, a lack of vitamin B12 in many cases only comes after years. Lack of symptoms can occur faster if someone from the outset hardly has a vitamin B12 depot. These include breastfed infants whose mothers eat vegan during pregnancy and lactation, and people who only rarely consume animal foods.
The risk groups for a vitamin B12 deficiency include alcoholics, pregnant women, nursing women and the elderly.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Symptoms
The body needs vitamin B12 for various processes, such as nerve function, cell division and blood formation. Therefore, vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms affect eyes as well as hair, nerves and muscles. Anemia is one of the first symptoms vitamin B12 deficiency. Consequences can also be:
- Disorders of deep sensibility up to paralysis
- Disorders of cell division in skin and mucous membranes
- Hair loss
- Muscle weakness
- Fatigue, lack of concentration, memory weakness
- Headache migraine
- Degeneration of the optic nerve
- Food intolerances, allergies
- In infants: (severe) developmental disorders
Vitamin B12 Deficiency, Foods Containing Vitamin B12
Foods of plant origin may contain traces of vitamin B12 after bacterial fermentation. These include, for example, sauerkraut and beer. In addition, seaweed such as nori and shiitake mushrooms provide staggering levels of vitamin B12 in food. Foods of this kind are the only natural sources of vitamin B12 for vegans. In addition, it is not certain whether and how well the body can utilize the vitamin in these products.
It is therefore not possible to cover the vitamin B12 requirement with a purely plant-based diet, based on current knowledge. For vegetarians who at least eat eggs and dairy products, the chance is greater that they – with careful nutrition planning – sufficient vitamin B12 feed.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Diagnosis
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can be diffuse and affect the person affected, even before the undersupply of medical measurement methods can be determined. Since neurological vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms (sensory disturbances, reflexes, etc.) can be irreversible, it is important to recognize the deficiency as early as possible.
For a long time the standard for vitamin B12 deficiency was the measurement of total serum vitamin B12. However, this is a late and nonspecific biomarker – so a little sensitive vitamin B12 deficiency test. More meaningful is the measurement of holotranscobalamin (Holo-TC). It indicates the status of the actually active vitamin B12. However, this vitamin B12 test is twice as expensive as the standard test.
Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Therapy
If a of vitamin B12 deficiency was recognized early, it can usually be compensated by a change in diet or the administration of vitamin B12 supplements. These preparations may be taken (e.g., as tablets) or administered directly into the bloodstream (such as by infusion).