People often suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency, which in many cases could easily be prevented by eating the right foods. But how do you actually recognize a vitamin B-12 deficiency and what are the consequences for your health?
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble vitamin that the human body cannot produce itself. It is therefore particularly important to ensure that vitamin B12 is regularly ingested in sufficient quantities through the diet.
What causes vitamin B-12 deficiency?
A lack of vitamin B12 can generally be caused by either insufficient intake, insufficient bioavailability or malabsorption, reports an international research team in the English-language journal “Nature”.
In addition, the disruption of B12 transport in the blood, impaired cellular uptake and impaired metabolism can contribute to an intracellular deficiency of vitamin B12, the researchers continue. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can therefore not only occur if you take in too little of the vitamin through your diet
Various other influencing factors
Other factors that influence the absorption of vitamin B12 are heavy alcohol consumption, older age, the genetic Imerslund-Gräsbeck syndrome, an abnormal colonization of the intestine, an infestation with fish tapeworms, B12 analogues or a generally increased need, for example due to pregnancy .
The absorption of vitamin B12 can also be impaired by inflammation of the gastric mucosa, removal of parts of the stomach, TYPE A gastritis, atrophic gastritis, chronic intestinal inflammation, the removal of sections of the intestine and the use of special medication.
Lack only after years of undersupply
In order to even realize that you suffer from a vitamin B-12 deficiency, you first have to know the symptoms that are typically associated with the occurrence of such a deficiency.
A vitamin B-12 deficiency does not occur immediately if you have not taken in enough of the vitamin through your diet for a few days. This is because vitamin B12 and folic acid (also known as folate or vitamin B9) work closely together in the body and the liver stores folic acid for up to three years.
Therefore, symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency often only appear after years of undersupply. It is important to be aware of these symptoms in order to take countermeasures and avoid serious health problems.
How can vitamin B-12 deficiency be recognized?
Typical for a lack of vitamin B12 are tiredness, exhaustion and paleness, which are triggered by a so-called pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency anemia). In addition, vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause discomfort in the hands and feet, tingling and paralysis.
In addition, vitamin B12 deficiency is also associated with cognitive decline, immune deficiency (due to reduction in white blood cells), bleeding tendency, weight loss and loss of appetite.
Unsteady gait and mental confusion
In addition, symptoms such as a smooth red tongue, a burning sensation on the tongue, injuries to the oral mucosa, an unsteady gait and mental confusion can indicate a lack of the important vitamin.
Vitamin B12 can also affect mood. It even seems possible to develop depression from a vitamin B-12 deficiency, reports psychologist Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin in a contribution from the Mayo Clinic (USA). However, further research on this topic is discouraged.
Irreversible neurological damage
According to a study, a vitamin B12 deficiency can generally lead to irreversible neurological damage, which is why it is particularly important to diagnose and remedy such a deficiency as early as possible.
How can vitamin B-12 deficiency be diagnosed?
If you suspect a vitamin B-12 deficiency, you should have a doctor examine you. For example, a serum test can determine the total amount of B12 in the blood.
A so-called holo-transcobalamin test, on the other hand, determines the amount of usable vitamin B12 that is transported by transcobalamin. It can also be helpful to measure the level of methylmalonic acid in your blood or urine with the help of a test.
Make sure you have enough vitamin B12 in your diet
In summary, it can be said that typical symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency can only appear years later, although it is actually important to diagnose such a deficiency as early as possible in order to prevent partially irreversible damage.
It is therefore appropriate when selecting the food to be consumed, in particular to ensure that it contains sufficient vitamin B12. (as)