Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin you need for good health. Vitamin B12 is needed for (1):
- production of components of DNA
- production of red blood cells
- regeneration of bone marrow and the lining of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tracts
- maintaining the normal function of cells of the nervous system and spinal cord
- prevention of megaloblastic anemia (chronic blood disorder in which the bone marrow produces overly large, immature blood cells.)
Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in:
- alcoholic/ smoker
- strict vegetarian
- pregnant/ breastfeeding women
- Crohn's/ coeliac disease
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency can include;
- fatigue/ weakness
- poor memory
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- vision problems
- low sperm count
According to Havard's blog there was a case report in Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital published in The New England Journal of Medicine -- Over the course of two months, a 62-year-old man developed numbness and a “pins and needles” sensation in his hands, had trouble walking, experienced severe joint pain, began turning yellow, and became progressively short of breath. The cause was lack of vitamin B12 in his bloodstream, Furthermore, it could have been worse, a severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to deep depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss, incontinence, loss of taste and smell, and more (2).
As we age, our digestive system doesn't produce as much acid which means absorption of Vitamin B12 is decreased. A simple blood test can determine if you have low Vitamin B12 and supplementation can help with bringing Vitamin B12 levels up.
1 , S.B. (2008, February 12). Vitamin B12--State of the Science. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Retrieved Feb 2016.
2. Vitamin B12 Deficiency Can Be Sneaky, Harmful. (2013, January 30). Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved Feb 2016.
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research