There is little doubt that you have heard of vitamin B12, this nutrient so crucial to vegans. Generally caused by a diet free of animal products, its deficiency can lead to anemia and deterioration of the nervous system. But are people on plant-based diets the only ones who should be concerned about this issue?
In our new article, we will discuss the most important aspects of vitamin B12 deficiency. We will delve into the population groups that are at high risk of hypovitaminosis, its consequences, and how to prevent it. Are you ready to learn more about it?
- 1 Weekly newsletter with the best personal finance tips
- 2 Key Facts
- 3 Our Selection: The Best Products to Prevent Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- 4 Everything You Should Know About Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- 5 Buyer's Guide
- 6 Summary
- Vitamin B12 deficiency is a health condition that primarily affects vegans, older adults, and individuals with intestinal or autoimmune pathologies.
- In the long run, the depletion of vitamin B12 reserves will lead to a deterioration of health with anemia and neurological impairment. Some of these conditions can become permanent.
- You can prevent vitamin B12 deficiency by using fortified foods or supplements.
Our Selection: The Best Products to Prevent Vitamin B12 Deficiency
In the following section, you will discover our very own selection of the most popular supplements to help you combat this condition. All of them are made from high-quality ingredients, and thousands of users in the country have tested their efficacy. In any case, dietary products should never replace medical care. You are advised to have your blood regularly tested to make sure the supplementation is effective.
Everything You Should Know About Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Natural aging, damage to the digestive tract, and plant-based diets can all lead to a depletion of the body's reserves of vitamin B12. The prevention and treatment of this condition are essential to avoid severe and permanent disorders such as dementia or blindness.
Why is vitamin B12 deficiency considered a problem?
If your vitamin B12 levels are insufficient, DNA formation in new cells is impossible. The synthesis of myelin, a substance that surrounds nerve fibers, will also be reduced. In addition, the paralysis of enzymatic processes will lead to the deposition of molecules such as homocysteine.
- If your organism cannot create new cells, you will have anemia. At a microscopic level, you can observe how the cellular precursors grow in size, preparing for a division that isn't possible due to the B12 deficiency. This is known as megaloblastic anemia, which literally means few large-size blood cells (3).
- If your nervous system loses its protective lining, it will undergo degenerative changes. Nerve fibers need to be protected by the myelin sheath in order to transmit electrical impulses to the brain. A lack of B12 will cause demyelination; this affects your balance, vision, memory, and concentration, among other things (1, 4).
- If a homocysteine deposit occurs, the cardiovascular risk may increase. Some studies have linked increased plasma homocysteine concentrations to a higher risk of cardiovascular events or stroke. These findings are currently under study (5, 6).
These alterations will harm your quality of life. Megaloblastic anemia will decrease your resistance to fatigue. At the same time, degeneration of the nervous system can cause you to experience brain fog, the lack of concentration that vegans worry about so much. We have listed more symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency in the following table (3, 4, 6, 7):
|Symptom or sign||Description|
|Fatigue||Consequence of the inability of red blood cells to transport oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. It can lead to reduced athletic performance and muscle pain.|
|Skin paleness||This is due to reduced red blood cells. If you have a yellowish tone, you may suffer from hepatic alteration.|
|Digestive alterations||Digestive lesions may appear, resulting in diarrhea, nausea, an increase in the size of the liver, and loss of appetite, with the consequent weight loss.|
|Palpitations||They are a consequence of anemia. Oxygen transport decreases, forcing the heart to beat at a higher-than-normal rate to supply the demands of the organism.|
|Behavioral alterations||Unexplained sadness, irritability, or apathy have been reported as a consequence of vitamin B12 deficiency.|
|Intellectual alterations||This is a sign of neurological degeneration. They can manifest themselves as difficulty concentrating (brain fog), alterations in memory, or a decrease in mental performance. If it is not treated, it can lead to dementia and hallucinations.|
|Clumsiness||Consequence of the deterioration of the neurological systems responsible for your balance.|
|Sensitivity alterations||Consequence of the deterioration of the neurological system. They can appear in the form of pain or tingling (paresthesias).|
|Visual alterations||This is a rare but severe consequence of B12 deficiency (optical neuropathy). If left untreated, it can lead to blindness.|
|Developmental alterations in the fetus||In pregnant women, B12 deficiency has been associated with an increased rate of malformations in the fetus.|
|Elevation of cardiovascular risk (controversial)||Some studies link the elevation of homocysteine concentrations with an increased risk of coronary pathology or stroke. Hypothesis currently under study.|
Am I exposed to vitamin B12 deficiency?
I'm a vegan. Am I at risk? Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in foods of animal origin. Individuals following plant-based diets cannot get the cobalamin they need naturally, which is why they have to turn to supplements or fortified foods (8, 9).
I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian. Can I have low vitamin B12 levels? Dairy products and eggs contain small amounts of cobalamin. The intake of B12 from these foods may be insufficient, depending on the individual. Some experts recommend that vegetarians supplement to prevent any deficiencies (9, 10, 11, 12).
I often eat meat. Why do I have low B12 levels? Diet isn't the only factor that predisposes to this type of deficiency. As you will see in the table below, B12 levels can be lowered by any kind of gastrointestinal injury or condition, in response to chronic illness, or as a result of natural processes such as aging (4, 13).
In the table below, we have listed the many possible causes of vitamin B12 deficiency:
|Gastric pathology|| Pernicious anemia (intrinsic factor deficit)
Consequence of stomach surgery
Consumption of toxic substances
Functional diseases (alterations in the secretion of gastric acid)
|Intestinal malabsorption|| Pancreatic diseases
Zollinger-Ellison type malabsorptive syndromes
Infections by bacteria or parasites
Surgical bowel resection
|Medication and drugs|| HIV treatment
|Other causes|| Congenital diseases
Increased needs during pregnancy
As you can see, your risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency will depend on a variety of factors. While you can manage some of them (such as your diet), others (after-effects of surgery, autoimmune diseases, or drug treatment) are out of your control. Consult a health professional if you think you have any of the conditions listed above.
How can I prevent vitamin B12 deficiency?
|Population group||Recommended daily allowance (RDA)|
|Babies, 0-6 months||0.4|
|Babies, 7-12 months||0,5|
|Children, 1 to 3 years old||0.9|
|Children, 4 to 8 years old||1.2|
|Children, 9 to 13 years old||1.8|
|Men and women from 14 years old||2.5|
A balanced diet is the first step toward keeping your vitamin B12 reserves full. Animal-based products will be the main source of cobalamin for omnivorous individuals. The largest amounts of B12 are found in mollusks and the entrails (such as the liver or kidneys) of animals (19).
|Food (100 grams/milliliters)||Amount of B12 (micrograms)|
Individuals who do not consume products of animal origin for ethical, religious, or health reasons won't be able to take advantage of the B12 content of these foods. This is why they are advised to consume fortified foods or supplements. The vitamin B12 present in these products is of bacterial origin, which means that no animal needs to be killed to obtain it.
- Fortified foods: You can find yeasts, vegetable drinks, and cereals enriched with vitamin B12 in any specialized store or online. These products will provide you with varying amounts of cobalamin. You may need to include several of these foods in your daily diet to meet your RDA for vitamin B12.
- Vitamin B12 supplements: These nutritional products contain high concentrations of synthetic (cyanocobalamin) or natural (hydroxocobalamin, methylcobalamin, or adenosylcobalamin) vitamin B12. Injectable supplements are used by doctors, while oral preparations in the form of drops, pills, or sublingual tablets are readily available in supermarkets and online.
How should I use vitamin B12 supplements?
Oral supplements, on the other hand, may be prescribed by a health professional or purchased directly by the consumer. If you buy them yourself, keep in mind that there are different dosage guidelines based on certain characteristics. We have listed them below (20, 21):
|25-100 mcg||Daily||Elderly population (WebMD)|
|1 mcg||Three times a day||Young, healthy vegans (The Vegan Society)|
|At least 10 mcg||Once a day||Young, healthy vegans (The Vegan Society)|
|2,000 mcg||Once a week||Young, healthy vegans (The Vegan Society)|
You should always check the label of your vitamin B12 supplement for the manufacturer's instructions regarding use and recommended doses. You can also ask your physician for more information. While they are considered safe, these products may cause digestive discomfort or allergic reactions. In addition, they interact with certain medications (such as chloramphenicol) (20, 22).
In the section below, we will delve into the main characteristics of products designed to keep B12 deficiency at bay. In any case, remember that your intestinal tract must be able to absorb this vitamin if you want to make the most of these supplements and fortified foods.
Foods Fortified With Vitamin B12
Flour, breakfast cereals, soy drinks, and yeast are available to enrich your dishes. Their price will depend on the type of food you want to purchase. Generally, you can expect them to cost a few dollars more than their standard counterparts, although the quantity you buy naturally influences this.
High-quality fortified foods will feature detailed nutritional information about the type of vitamin B12 they contain. It should either be active or bioavailable. In addition, you should cook these products with caution; cobalamin is unstable at high temperatures.
Multivitamins With Vitamin B12
What would a multivitamin supplement be without vitamin B12? Virtually all of these nutritional products contain cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin. However, they are often intended for omnivores. If you plan to make them your only source of B12, make sure they provide at least 100% of your RDA.
Multivitamin supplements are generally very affordable, although this will depend on the manufacturer and the ingredients they contain.
B12 Supplements for Daily Use
Most commercially available vitamin B12 dietary products are sold as daily-use items. The synthetic (cyanocobalamin) or natural (methyl, hydroxyl, and adenosylcobalamin) cobalamin content of these supplements ranges from 100 to 5,000 micrograms. They are marketed in the form of capsules, chewable tablets, or liquid extract.
Since there have been no reports of severe effects from excessive intake of vitamin B12, many brands choose to administer large doses to achieve greater bioavailability. However, we warn you that the prestigious vegan organization The Vegan Society advises not to exceed 5,000 micrograms of vitamin B12 per week.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common problem that can take many of us by surprise. If you don't carefully monitor your intake and absorption of this vitamin, you may suffer from anemia and neuropsychiatric disorders. The consequences of this nutritional deficiency can lead to debilitating diseases.
Fortunately, you now have access to a variety of dietary products that will provide you with the vitamin B12 supply you need. Fortified foods and supplements help keep vegan and vegetarian individuals healthy, while injections are designed for anyone who cannot absorb cobalamin properly.
Did you find our guide on vitamin B12 deficiency helpful and informative? Feel free to tell us your experience in the comments section below; we'd love to hear from you! You can also share this article on your social media so that your friends and family also learn how to tackle this growing problem.
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