Adequate intake of vitamin B12 is important for many functions of the body. The vitamin not only benefits physical health, but also cognitive health. If, on the other hand, there is a vitamin B12 deficiency, this increases the risk of numerous health problems and illnesses.
Vitamin B12 (also called cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin that enters the blood and cells through the stomach. There, for example, it is involved in the formation of red blood cells and DNA, explains nutritionist Anna Taylor from the Cleveland Clinic (USA).
Important for many processes in the body
The vitamin also plays an important role in the provision of folic acid, the energy balance of the cells, fat metabolism and the function of the nerves. In addition, vitamin B12 influences the production of hormones and so-called neurotransmitters.
This not only illustrates how important vitamin B12 is for humans, but also why a deficiency has far-reaching negative effects on the body and mind.
Consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency
For example, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause the size of red blood cells to increase, which makes it more difficult for them to move through the bloodstream and can lead to a type of anemia (anemia), reports Taylor.
The anemia associated with the deficiency leads to paleness and fatigue and a reduced number of blood platelets, which is also associated with fewer white blood cells. This results in the immune system being weakened, which in turn increases the susceptibility to infections.
Effects on cognitive functions
According to a study, a good supply of vitamin B 12 can counteract early cognitive decline, whereas a deficiency of the vitamin impairs memory and cognitive abilities.
A vitamin B12 deficiency is also often associated with weakness and fatigue, can cause nerve damage and various other health problems and can even promote the development of age-related macular degeneration, adds the Clevland Clinic expert.
Other consequences of a vitamin B12 deficiency include a burning sensation on the tongue, an unsteady gait, psychological confusion and numbness in the limbs. If a vitamin B12 deficiency persists over a longer period of time, this can even result in paralysis.
Increased risk of depression and dementia
Vitamin B12 deficiency also affects the messenger substances and nerves and can increase the risk of mental illnesses in the long term. A persistent deficiency promotes the occurrence of depression, dementia, anxiety disorders, psychoses and hallucinations.
Vitamin B12 deficiency and ischemic strokes
A study this year also reported a link between vitamin B12 deficiency and ischemic strokes in older people.
According to the researchers, the deficiency can lead to arteriosclerosis of the cerebral arteries, change the so-called myelination, affect metabolism and transmission between nerve tissue and ultimately cause the development of an ischemic stroke.
Taken together, the results make it clear how important it is to ensure a good supply of vitamin B12 and to recognize possible symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency in order to be able to take countermeasures at an early stage and avoid more serious health problems. (as)