Signs of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is almost exclusively found in animal sources. Because of this, vegetarians or vegans who do not eat any form of animal-based food products have the highest risk of having a deficiency of the vitamin. Strict vegans and vegetarians often need to either take a B12 supplement, or make sure they are consuming enough fortified foods in order to ensure they avoid a deficiency and get all the health benefits of vitamin B12.
Also, people who have problems absorbing vitamin B12 are at an increased risk of having a deficiency. Vitamin B12 is absorbed by the intestines and requires a digestive secretion known as gastric intrinsic factor to be properly absorbed. Individuals who are deficient in gastric intrinsic factor have problems absorbing vitamin B12, and so have a greater chance of having a deficiency of B12.
General signs and symptoms of a deficiency of vitamin B12 include fatigue, weakness, abdominal pain, nausea, constipation, flatulence, lack of appetite, and problems with menstruation. Additional signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- An ongoing deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to a disorder called megloblastic anemia. Pernicious anemia is a form of megaloblastic anemia that occurs as a result of inadequate intake of vitamin B12 or from insufficient secretion of gastric intrinsic factor.
- Neurological problems may occur due to a vitamin B12 deficiency. These issues include numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, progressive neuropathy, a feeling of weakness in the legs, and problems walking or using one’s legs. Neurological disorders resulting from a vitamin B12 deficiency may occur without any corresponding hematologic problems (caused by anemia). Depending on how advanced the symptoms are, neurological problems resulting from a B12 deficiency may be irreversible.
- A B12 deficiency can also inhibit the synthesis of DNA, which can prevent normal cellular growth and repair.
- In older individuals, a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause mental disorientation, memory loss, and jaundice (a yellowish tinting of the skin.
The signs and symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are nearly identical to the symptoms of a vitamin B9 (folic acid) deficiency. These symptoms could include pallor of the skin, headaches, weakness, syncope, difficulty breathing, and palpitations. However, these symptoms are usually able to be completely eliminated through vitamin B12 treatment.
Signs of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) Overdose and Toxicity
Vitamin B12 is extremely safe and it is generally not considered toxic even when ingested in extremely large dosages through food or vitamin supplementation. Excess B12 is efficiently and quickly flushed from the body.
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