A Vitamin that may be a good idea to consider supplementing: Vitamin B12
By Sahar Safavi
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin (koh-bal-uh-min) deficiency occurs in greater than 20% of people over the age of 65. Clinical symptoms may be subtle which is why B12 deficiency can be unrecognized. What is the significance of Vitamin B12 and why is it important for your health? Cobalamin is an essential vitamin found to assist mainly in the production of DNA and red blood cell production. It is also important in the maintenance of nervous system function. An overview of some of the signs and symptoms of cobalamin deficiency include the following:
- Muscle weakness
- Fatigue from anemia
- Shakiness and unsteady gait
- Cognitive problems like poor memory
- Depression and other mood disorders
The form of anemia that presents with B12 deficiency is called megaloblastic anemia. This is when red blood cells produced are larger than normal. It can lead to symptoms of fatigue, fast heartbeat, loss of appetite, smooth or tender tongue, nausea, and diarrhea. Your doctor might use a urine test to see how well you absorb B12 from your diet. In the Schilling test, radioactive B12 is consumed. If a large amount of B12 is excreted in your urine, your body might not absorb it adequately.
Although dietary stores of B12 are generally adequate in a balanced diet, with age absorption can decline. Stomach acid levels can be decreased and these components of stomach acid are necessary to absorb sufficient B12 from natural sources. Other risk factors for B12 deficiency are strict vegan diets, chronic use of anti-acid medications, heavy alcohol use, stomach surgery for weight loss, and certain autoimmune disorders.
What is the solution to cobalamin nutrient deficiency? Increasing consumption of foods rich in B12 is a good beginning. Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal foods including fish, dairy, egg, and meats. If your diet contains sufficient meat and dairy products, requirements may be met. However, current recommendations advise to supplement 25 to 100 micrograms in people over the age of 50. In addition, B12 injections are currently gaining popularity. Evidence indicates that large enough supplementation of B12 is as effective as B12 injections. Supplementation is more imperative now that food industries are fortifying foods with nutrients that can mask B12 deficiency symptoms.