Vitamin B12 deficiency - Causes and symptoms

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Essential for the bodily functions, vitamins are organic compounds that play different roles ensuring you’re always in the pink of health. Of the 13 essentials, one that keeps the body's nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA is Vitamin B12 or Cobalamin. It is hands down one of the most important of its kind.

Vitamin B12 is a vital Water-soluble vitamin, which is chiefly found in different animal foods. These can range from eggs, fish, poultry, meats, and so on. It is further found in several B12 fortified products like plant-based milk and bread.

B12 is an indispensable element for your immune system and your brain health. B12 Deficiency is quite common in most old aged individuals. Let’s discover everything you need to know about this quintessential vitamin.

Top Benefits of B12

In a society that runs at an expeditious rate, skipping meals and choosing junk over healthy foods is a common mistake we all make. Due to this, there is a high possibility of your body losing out on the essential vitamins.

Many people make use of dietary supplements to avoid such unhealthy patterns. So, how exactly can Vitamin B12 benefit you? Read ahead.

Helps Maintain a Crisp Memory

Methyl Groups are extremely essential for your brain. This is because they play a fundamental role in regulating the brain function. These include different psychological functions like maintaining a sleep pattern, regulating your memory, behavior, judgment, mood, and so on.
Thus, your brain requires sufficient supplies of methyl-B12. Only then can it regulate a healthy neurotransmitter balance and generate sufficient energy.
It can further carry out a myriad of enzyme reactions. B12 deficiency, on the other hand, can severely impact memory impairment.

Maintains Gut Health

Vitamin B12, as previously stated, is extracted from different meats like fish, beef, pork, and much more. Vegetarians and vegans may most often have reduced levels of Vitamin B12 in their bodies.
That being said, absorbing Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in regulating a healthy gastrointestinal tract. It can further improve your overall health as a whole.

Can Potentially Prevent Critical Birth Defects

An ample amount of vitamin B12 in your body is necessary for a healthy pregnancy. Experts suggest that the fetus’s nervous system and brain need enough B12 levels from the mother.
The Vitamin B12 stage can initially advance the risk of several birth defects. One of these includes neural tube defects. Moreover, maternal vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to miscarriage or premature birth.

Can Lower Your Risk Of Developing Macular Degeneration

Macular Degeneration is a rare eye disease that chiefly impacts your central vision. Having ample levels of vitamin B12 in your body can help you avoid falling prey to this disease.

Improves Your Mood

Vitamin B12 can also significantly improve your mood. While the accurate effects of Vitamin B12 on mood is in the blur, it has helped several people feel better.
The vitamin is known for metabolizing and synthesizing serotonin. Serotonin is an integral chemical that regulates your mood. Vitamin B12 deficiency may or may not lead to lowered serotonin production. This can further lead to depression. Several studies support that Vitamin B12 supplements can enhance symptoms of depression.

Plays Important Role in Anaemia Prevention

Vitamin B12, as previously suggested, helps your body produce red blood cells. A reduced B12 level in your body can thus lower the RBC formation.
Healthy blood cells are a vital factor for every human body. These blood cells are round and small in appearance. When they grow larger and change into an oval shape, you might have a B12 deficiency.
This can further cause anemia. A few of the symptoms you may experience include nausea, weakness, and fatigue.

Can Boost Your Energy

Further, Vitamin B12 supplements are known as the go-to products for boosting your energy. In brief, B12 vitamin helps in energy production in your body. While it doesn’t provide the energy itself, it can make quite an impact.
If you lack energy, chances are, you are vitamin B12 deficient.

Assists Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails

Vitamin B12 comes with a plethora of benefits. Sufficient levels of vitamin B12 can positively affect your body, thereby driving healthy nails, skin, and hair.
B12 supports healthy hair growth by boosting the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells, which feed the hair follicles.
The vitamin also aids the absorption of iron in the body. Both iron and B12 are necessary for keeping nails strong and healthy.
It is a no-brainer that any Vitamin deficiency can make you look dull and your skin prone to common problems like blemishes, acne, and dryness. Vitamin B12 deficiency is no different.

Can Promote Heart Health

High blood levels of homocysteine can cause a potential risk of developing heart disease. Studies suggest that vitamin B12 lowers homocysteine levels.
You can, thus, lower the risk of falling prey to a heart disease by including sufficient amounts of Vitamin B12 in your diet. Further research is required to back this statement.

Signs and Symptoms That Suggest You Have Vitamin B12 Deficiency

People that may be vulnerable to Vitamin B12 deficiency include:
• The elderly
• People consuming metformin, a drug used for treating diabetes
• People taking long-term antacid medical drugs for heartburn
• People following a critical vegan diet
• People with surgeries that interfere with the bowel absorption of B12
Here are some of the most common B12 deficiency symptoms and signs:

Jaundiced and Pale Skin

People suffering from a B12 deficiency may often look like they have jaundice. They may further look pale with whitened eyes. This chiefly happens because of reduced blood cell production.
As already mentioned, Vitamin B12 plays an effective role in producing DNA. Thus, you may suffer from megaloblastic anemia if you are Vitamin B12 deficient.

Nausea and Weakness

Further, fatigue, nausea, and weakness are common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. In this case, red blood cells do not transport enough oxygen throughout your entire body. Thus, this is chiefly a reason why you may experience these symptoms.

Sensitivity to Needles And Pins

Another severe side effect of broadened B12 deficiency is nerve damage. Myelin in your body is produced irregularly without B12. Due to this, your nervous system may function abnormally.
This can then lead to paresthesia. This is quite similar to prickling sensations in your feet and hands.

Mobility Changes

B12 deficiency can also further lead to imbalance and coordination alterations of the nervous system. This symptom commonly occurs among undiagnosed B12 deficiency in the older age groups.

Mouth Ulcers And Glossitis

Glossitis, in simple terms, is an inflamed tongue. On suffering from Glossitis, you will notice your tongue’s shape and color change. This will then make your tongue red, swollen, and itchy.
The inflammation may further smoothen your tongue. Studies suggest that vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to mouth ulcers also.

Dizziness And Shortness of Breath

B12 deficiency, as we all know, can lead to anemia. Due to this, you may suffer from symptoms like dizziness and breathlessness. This happens because your body comprises insufficient red blood cells.
Nevertheless, these symptoms may have several other causes. Thus, if you often feel breathless, you should consult your doctor to study the cause.

Side Effects And Dosage

Vitamin B12 supplements are often safe to use. Any amount of dosage may not cause severe side effects. However, the recommended amount of vitamin B-12 among adults is about 2.4 micrograms per day.
In rare circumstances, you may experience some side effects of vitamin B12. This may potentially happen if you take high doses for treating the deficiency. These include- vomiting, nausea, headache, dizziness, and anxiety.

Diagnosis for Treating Vitamin B12 deficiency

Your doctor may usually ask you to undergo more than one test. Some of the tests you may need to take are as follows.

  • Total blood count: Analysing the blood cell shape and count can help you determine if you have B12 deficiency
  • Vitamin B12 level: You can determine the vitamin B12 content in your blood with this test
  • Intrinsic factor antibodies: This test involves help your proteins engage with the immune system. This can then attack the intrinsic factor. You can then determine if you have pernicious anemia
  • Schilling test: Schilling test utilizes radioactive B12 form for understanding your body’s intrinsic factor.
  • MMA (methylmalonic acid level): This test can ensure the overall MMA amount in your body. Your body’s MMA level increases if you have low levels of B12. 

These tests can collectively help you identify if you are B12 deficient.


Vitamin B12 is an extremely crucial nutrient that your body requires. While your body can’t produce it on its own, taking necessary supplements is essential. You can also choose to maintain a vitamin B12-rich diet instead of consuming supplements.

Furthermore, vegetarians, pregnant, and breastfeeding women are prone to the risk of B12 deficiency. Thus, if you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, you must consult your doctor.

You can also browse through which foods have high B12 content to design an appropriate diet.