Saturday Dec 03 2022
Web Desk

Often overlooked Vitamin B12 deficiency can be dangerous

Web Desk
Person holding different supplements in their hand.— Unsplash
Person holding different supplements in their hand.— Unsplash

Despite the fact that B12 deficiency is a widespread health issue that affects between 6% and 20% of Americans, doctors can just as readily be blind to it in patients, says Diane Cress, an Associate Professor of Nutrition and Food Science at Wayne State University.

Mostly, the diet is deficient in B12, which is only available in foods derived from animals. The good news is that humans only require 2.4 micrograms of B12 every day. The body's general health and quality of life suffer when B12 levels are insufficient.

Signs and symptoms

Fatigue is one of the main signs of a B12 deficiency, a state of extreme fatigue or exhaustion that interferes with day-to-day activity.

Other neurological symptoms can include numbness or tingling in the limbs, confusion, memory loss, sadness, and trouble staying balanced. If the vitamin shortage is not treated, several of these conditions can become permanent.

But because there are so many potential explanations for these symptoms, medical professionals can ignore the likelihood of a B12 shortage and neglect to screen for it. A good diet may also appear to rule out any vitamin deficiencies.

According to research, those who eat a plant-based diet must take B12 supplements at proportions usually found in multivitamins. However, hundreds of millions of people who do take B12 supplements may also be in danger due to illnesses that can prevent their bodies from absorbing B12.

The intricate multistep process of absorbing vitamin B12 starts in the mouth and ends at the very end of the small intestine. Saliva and food are combined during chewing. R-protein, a component of saliva that shields vitamin B12 from being dissolved by stomach acid, gets to the stomach with the meal when it is eaten.

Risk factors for the deficiency

Without saliva, B12 cannot bind to the R-protein in saliva and cannot be absorbed by the body. And there are thousands of different medications that might make you feel dry-mouthed and reduce your saliva production. They include benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, which are used to treat anxiety and depression, as well as inhalers, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants.

Low levels of stomach acid may also contribute to a B12 deficiency. Millions of people take anti-ulcer drugs to lessen the stomach acids that cause ulcers. Although that possibility might not outweigh the need for the medication, researchers have conclusively linked the use of these drugs to B12 deficiency.

Ageing might also cause the production of stomach acid to decrease.

It is essential for B12 absorption that gastric acid and other important chemicals are produced by the stomach's specialised parietal cells. However, harm to the stomach lining can stop both from being produced.

Insufficient pancreatic function is another frequent cause of B12 insufficiency. A B12 shortage develops in around one-third of patients with impaired pancreatic function.

Last but not least, B12 deficiency has long been linked to the drug metformin, which is used to treat Type 2 diabetes across the globe as well as polycystic ovarian syndrome, both widespread chronic illnesses.


The severity and aetiology of the B12 deficiency determine the type of treatment and length of recovery. Although a full recovery can take up to a year, it is extremely likely with the right care.

Treatment for a B12 deficiency might be oral, given sublingually or nasally, or it may call for different kinds of injections.