Vitamin B12, also known as colabin, is essential for the correct functioning of the brain and nervous system.
Sources of Vitamin B12
The vegetarian sources of vitamin B12 include fermented foods, probiotic yoghurt and yeast. The non-vegetarian sources include seafood and poultry.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The common symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
- Lack of concentration
- Panic attacks
- Memory lapse in the early stages which might lead to dementia if not treated. Dementia caused by B12 deficiency can be reversed hence it is important for a dementia patient to get his B12 levels checked and ensure whether his condition is reversible or not.
Causes of Deficiency
Even after consumption of the above mentioned foods there at certain instances where the body does not absorb B12. This is can be due to:
- A certain medical condition
- Old age
- Poor immunity
- Lack of folic acid
- Self-medication using over-the-counter antacids that damages the stomach lining and prevents absorption of B12.
Outcomes of Low Levels of Vitamin B12
On average a human body requires 2.4mcg of B12 in a day. The ideal B12 level must be 400mcg, but levels between 200-900mcg are acceptable.
B12 deficiency does not occur instantaneously, but is developed over many years of B12 deprivation. If it is not treated at the correct moment then it can lead to numerous health problems.
Lack of B12 can lead to pernicious anemia, a condition more severe than the well-known anemia, which involves the development of immature and bigger sized RBCs. This results in poor oxygen circulation thus leading to muscular pain, spasms, and the accumulation of chemicals that stimulate the nerves. This makes the person tired or at times breathless.
Pernicious anemia may worsen to nerve damage as B12 protects the outer covering of the nerves, myelin sheath. When the covering is damaged the transmission of signals slows down, which results in burning, tingling, numbness in the hands and feet. To cure this disease, vitamin B12 injections are given, initially daily then on a weekly, then monthly and then yearly basis.
A recent study by the UK’s University of Warwick reported that lack of B12 during pregnancy may result in the predisposition to metabolic problems like type 2 diabetes.
Excess B12 in the body will cause no harm. The body consumes what it requires to repair the damage, and preserves the rest.
The earlier B12 deficiency is detected the earlier it can it can be treated.