Vitamin B12 Deficiency

January 11, 2023

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin, meaning that the body cannot make it, and must obtain it from food. Being water-soluble, it is not stored in the body, and must be replenished daily. It is used in the making of red blood cells and in support of the nervous system, including the brain. When the amount of vitamin B12 is low a condition called megaloblastic anemia can occur. This means that each red blood cell is abnormally large, and there are not enough normal red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body. The nervous system can also be affected. Signs and symptoms of B12 deficiency may include:

  • Tiredness
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Tremors and tingling
  • Poor balance and staggering gait

Possible causes of vitamin B12 deficiency:

  • Strict vegan diets
  • Malabsorption
    • Lack of intrinsic factor in the stomach
    • Low acid levels in the stomach
    • Lack of absorption from the small intestine following weight loss or cancer surgery
    • Helicobacter pylori, a bacterial stomach infection

Food sources of Vitamin B12:

  • Fortified cereals, veggie burgers, and soy products
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs 
  • Meats

Vitamin B12 supplementation is another alternative. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms per day, according to the 

National Institute of Health. For individuals unable to absorb the vitamin, injections are available.