An article by guest blogger at Viriidan Nutrition, Cath Quinn.
Levels of B12 deficiency in the general population are difficult to measure. However, some experts believe deficiency is more widely spread than was previously thought.
B vitamins in general are the ‘energy’ vitamins. And B12 deficiency in particular is more likely in the elderly and sufferers of diabetes. Vegetarians and vegans are also at risk of B12 deficiency, since it is difficult to take in adequate quantities of B12 on a meat and fish free diet. A deficiency in B12 has also been linked with Alzheimer’s and indirectly to coronary incidents such as heart attacks.
Fatigue and tiredness - signs you could have a B12 deficiency
Symptoms of B12 deficiency can sound quite general, which can make it difficult for GPs to diagnose. It can, however, be tested for. The most important sign of B12 deficiency is lack of energy and anaemia – in particular anaemia which is not resolved by iron supplementation. B12 deficiency is also characterised by neurological problems, such as hallucinations, paranoia and insomnia.
B12 deficiency and indigestion
B12 needs to interact with acid in the stomach to be bio-available in the rest of the body. So problems with indigestion and heartburn can be linked to B12 deficiency. In particular H-pylori infection, which causes excess stomach acid and ultimately ulcers, is a common cause of B12 deficiency.
Metabolic syndrome and B12 deficiency
With the high occurrence of B12 deficiency in diabetes, individuals with metabolic syndrome could also be considered at risk. Metabolic syndrome is the dangerous forerunner to diabetes, where insulin levels begin to show signs of maladjustment, and blood pressure rises. It is an extremely common condition, affecting as many as one in four people, according to NHS figures. If your waist is larger than 30” for a woman, or 37” for a man, you are considered at risk of metabolic syndrome.
B12 Deficiency anaemia
Iron works with B12 and also folate to make red blood cells. An on-going deficiency in any of these three nutrients will cause anaemia. This is where red blood cells are not large enough to carry out their best function.
Symptoms of anaemia include:
• Tiredness and fatigue
• Pale skin
• Cramps or tingling
However, anaemia can also occur with no or very few symptoms. If you think you may be anaemic your doctor can test for this condition.
Heart attacks, homocysteine and B12 deficiency
Scientists have made some exciting findings for B12’s potential to prevent heart attacks. This is due to the ability of B12 and folate to complete a detoxification process called ‘methylation’. If methylation has inadequate B12 and folate a compound called homocysteine is produced which can damage arteries. Combined with a poor diet, this can lead to build-up inside the artery walls which can eventually cause heart attacks or strokes.
How much B12 should I take?
B12 works with other vitamins, which is why it’s important to choose a responsible supplement company if you decide to supplement. A sign of a good supplement is when B12 has been included as a complex with other B vitamins. Although some harmless tingling and flushing can occur at high doses of B vitamins, commonly recommended levels are considered safe.
The information contained in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat any health condition. If you have health concerns or are currently taking prescribed medication, please consult your GP.