HomeMedicineVitamin B12 Deficiency – Who is at Risk?

Vitamin B12 DeficiencyNecessary primarily for the repair and maintenance of nerve and blood cells, cobalamin, otherwise known as Vitamin B12, is a nutrient acquired mainly through dairy and seafood. Deficiencies in this vitamin can cause several neurological problems and possibly even dementia in elderly people. A risk assessment for those most likely to suffer from a Vitamin B12 deficiency is a worthwhile task as the body depends upon to function properly.However, there are only a few specific circumstances where this is likely to occur.

Since the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are so many and varied, diagnosis from just this can be impossible. Symptoms include “pins and needles” in the hands and feet, fatigue, problems with concentration and memory, weight loss, constipation, and many others. There are really only two main groups of people that are in danger of becoming deficient, however, so unless you fit into one of these it is unlikely you are deficient in B12.

The first group are those with digestive tract problems. Since B12 must be absorbed via a stomach chemical called intrinsic factor, any disturbance to the production of it can cause deficiency. This can include any kind of disease or injury, like irritable bowel syndrome, the rare autoimmune disorder pernicious anemia, or any kind of surgery that may have disrupted the digestive system. Elderly people often have digestive problems and studies have shown that they are especially at risk of dementia and other brain wasting diseases because of vitamin B12 deficiency.

The second main group are vegans. Since B12 is found primarily in liver, clams, red meat, and fatty fish like tuna and salmon, vegans can slowly develop a deficiency over many years. This is especially true in children on a vegan diet. This is easily rectified, however, as one of the richest sources of B12 is fortified breakfast cereals. Add some fortified soy milk to it and you’re good to go. Alternatively,  you can begin taking a vitamin tablet that includes B12.

There are no benefits in taking vitamin B12for regular people. While you should make sure you are getting a good and varied diet, you probably get enough B12 through your diet and do not need to take a supplement. If you think you may fit into one of the two groups listed above, then you may want to check into adding a B12 supplement to your diet.

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