Vitamin B12 deficiency is an invisible epidemic that appears. Every medical textbook and scientific literature written about its symptoms, causes and effects of Vitamin B12 deficiency is not a strange or mysterious disease.
The condition is more common than most healthcare professionals and the general public realizes. Studies suggest that 40 percent of people between 26 and 83 have plasma B12 levels in the low normal range, which many experience neurological symptoms. It is highly surprising to the researchers that low B12 levels were comparatively common in young people than in older adults.
This type of deficiency is estimated to affect approximately 40 percent of people over the age of 60. It is possible that at least some of the symptoms we attribute to aging and the cause are a deficiency such as cognitive decline, memory loss, and decreased mobility.
Why Is It Underdiagnosed?
B12 deficiency is vastly underdiagnosed for two reasons. First, it is not an exam that most doctors routinely send. Second, the lower limit of the laboratory reference range is too low.
It is the reason why most studies underestimate the actual levels of deficiency. Many people tell those with a deficiency that their B12 levels are normal.
B12 deficiency can simulate the signs of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and various diseases such as learning disabilities in children, autism spectrum disorder, autoimmune diseases, cancer, and infertility in men and women.
What Is Vitamin B12, And Why Do We Need?
This Vitamin B12 works together with folate in the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. It is also involved in producing the myelin sheath around nerves and the conduction of nerve impulses. Because of that, we can think of the brain and nervous system as one big tangle of wires. Myelin is the covering that protects these wires and helps them carry messages.
Severe vitamin B12 deficiency in pernicious anemia is an autoimmune condition where the body destroys intrinsic factors. A protein necessary for the immersion of the vitamin used to be fatal until scientists discovered that it could prevent death by feeding patients with raw liver, which contains high levels of B12. However, anemia is the final stage of a deficiency. Long before anemia begins, deficient patients will experience various other problems, such as fatigue, memory loss, lethargy, weakness, and neurological and psychiatric problems.
What Are The Stages Of A Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs in four stages, beginning with a decrease in blood levels of the vitamin is a stage I. In stage II is progressing to low cellular concentrations of the vitamin. An increase in acidity levels in the blood, and in the last, a reduced rate of DNA synthesis is a stage III. Finally, hemophilia is stage IV.
Common Symptoms Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The signs can resemble the symptoms of several other severe disorders, and the neurological effects of low B12 can be of particular concern.
Anemia, Soft spot, Fatigue, Reduced appetite, and weight loss, besides Constipation, Balance problems, are the most common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Children can also show symptoms this deficiency, including developmental problems and learning problems if their vitamin B12 levels are too low.
Why Is It So Common?
B12 absorption is complex. It involves several steps and any of which can go wrong. Any of the following can cause B12 absorptive:
- Intestinal dysbiosis.
- Intestinal permeability and intestinal inflammation,
- Pernicious anemia,
- Exposure to nitrous oxide, either during surgery or recreational use
It explains why a deficiency can occur even in people who eat large amounts of B12-containing animal products. Many vitamin B12-deficient patients eat meat two or three times a day.
Who Is At Risk For A Deficiency?
In general, the following groups are at the highest risk for a deficiency:
- Vegetarians and vegans.
- People aged 60 and over.
- People taking diabetes medications such as metformin
- People with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, or IBS
- Women who are with a history of infertility and miscarriage.
You cannot get B12 from plant sources, and this vitamin is found only in animal products because vegetarians and vegans need to know the signs of vitamin deficiency and the necessary steps to solve the problem.
The only vitamin that contains a trace mineral (cobalt) is B12, which is called Cobalamin. In the intestines of animals produced Cobalamin. That we cannot get from plants or sunlight, it is the only vitamin.
There is a common myth among vegetarians and vegans is that it is possible to get B12 from plant sources such as:
- Fermented soy
However, plant foods that contain B12 contain B12 analogs called cobamides that block the intake and increase the need for true B12. That explains why studies continually show that up to 50 % of long-term vegetarians and 80% of vegans are deficient in B12.
The Impact Of A Deficiency On Children
The effects of B12 deficiency in children are especially alarming. Studies have shown that children raised to the age of six on a vegan diet are still deficient in vitamin B12 even years after eating at least some animal products. In one study, researchers are finding a connection between a child’s B12 status and their performance on measurement tests:
- Spatial ability
- Fluid intelligence
- Short term memory
The researchers found that vegan children previously scored lower than their omnivorous counterparts in each area.
The researchers said the deficit in fluid intelligence mainly concerns as this area affects a child’s ability to reason, solve complex problems, learn, and engage in abstract thinking. These defects in any of these areas could have long-term consequences for children.
How To Treat This Deficiency?
B12 deficiency is that diagnosis and treatment are relatively easy and cheap. It is mainly when compared to the treatment patients will need if they are in a late stage of this deficiency.
As always, the proper treatment depends on the underlying mechanism causing the problem. People with pernicious anemia or inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn’s disease may have poor absorption throughout their lives and may need B12 injections indefinitely. It can also be true for those with a severe deficiency that is causing neurological symptoms.
Recent studies have suggested that high-dose nasal administration or oral may be as powerful as injections for people with vitamin B12 absorptive problems. However, most experts of B12 still recommend injections for pernicious anemia and an advanced deficiency involving neurological symptoms.
Change Your Diet
Nourishing your body through whole foods is the best way to get the vitamins and nutrients you need. If you are low in B12, try eating some vitamin-rich foods like:
- Organ meats
Eating other types of shellfish, such as octopus, fish eggs, lobster, and crab, can also help you achieve normal B12 levels. If you are averse to shellfish, you can also get this vitamin from:
- Cow meat
However, it is essential to note that B12 in these foods is not as high as shellfish and organ meats.
What If You Experience Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms?
If you think that you have a vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, the first step is to get tested, and it will help if you have an accurate baseline to work.
If you are deficient in vitamin B12, the next step is to identify the mechanism that causes the deficiency. You will probably need a doctor’s help with this part. Once identifying the mechanism, one can select the appropriate form (injection, oral, sublingual, or nasal) of supplementation, dose, and duration of treatment.
Remember that you or someone you know has memory problems; remember: it may not be just aging. It could be a B12 deficiency.