Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is crucial for the human body. The human body does not produce it, so it has to be absorbed from foods and supplements. Per day requirement of people vary with age; infants (up to the age of 6 months) require 0.4 mcg, babies (from 6 to 12 months) require 0.5 mcg, children (between the age of 1 to 3 years) require 0.9 mcg, children of 4 to 8 years of age require 1.2 mcg, children of 9 to 13 years of age require 1.8 mcg and individuals above 14 years of age require 2.4 mcg. The requirement in pregnant and breastfeeding women increases to 2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg per day respectively. Although, the body requires a very small amount of vitamin B12 for its normal and adequate functioning. Mostly individuals above the age of 50 and those who consume vegetarian diet are deficient in this vitamin. The dietary sources of vitamin include animal or dairy sources such as fish, eggs, meat, poultry, milk, and cheese.
What Is The Effect of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
The effect of vitamin B12 deficiency can be related to its various functions in the body. It is essential for biochemical reactions in cells, which are needed for the formation of DNA, various proteins, hormones and fats. It also plays an important role in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine. It works along with folic acid that helps in various biochemical pathways and also helps transform inactive folic acid to its active form.
Vitamin B12 is required for DNA production and normal cell division, so adequate amount is required at the time of pregnancy for normal growth and development of fetus. The deficiency of vitamin B12 in the body hampers DNA synthesis and cell proliferation.
It is also necessary for the production of normal red blood cells in the bone marrow. Its deficiency in the bone marrow deters maturation of red blood cells and decreased red blood cells in the blood leading to pernicious anemia.
It is also necessary for the maintenance of normal gastrointestinal lining. The deficiency of vitamin B12 in the lining of digestive tract leads to formation of large abnormal cells in the gastric lining interferes with normal absorption nutrients and also causes symptoms of soreness in mouth and tongue.
It is also essential for the development and optimal functioning of the brain and nervous system. It is required in the formation of myelin sheath (the protective covering of nerve fibers) and also in the production of neurotransmitters (chemicals that help in the transmission of nerve signals between cells). B12 deficiency leads to damage of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord causing extensive damage to myelin sheath. If the deficiency persists for long, it leads to symptoms of numbness and tingling, balance problems, memory loss, and depression.
B12 is also necessary for optimal bone health, as its deficiency has been linked to osteoporosis leading to brittle bones and increased risk for fractures.
B12 is necessary for immunity, as its deficiency is associated with abnormalities of the immune system. A study suggested that individuals with low B12 level respond poorly to pneumonia vaccine. It is also associated with decreased functionality of white blood cells and increased susceptibility to infection such as tuberculosis.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency can affect nervous system, gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system as well as bone health. The deficiency symptoms include numbness, tingling, dizziness, memory loss, depression, balance problems, confusion, dementia, fatigue, palpitations, tachycardia, shortness of breath, nausea, lack of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, soreness and redness in tongue with loss of papillae, difficulty walking, muscle weakness, irritability, and/or vision loss.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by conditions such as atrophic gastritis, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease to name a few. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevented by taking a diet rich in fish, eggs, and dairy. The deficiency can be corrected by vitamin B12 injections, oral supplements, or nasal sprays.
- What Does Vitamin B12 Do For You & What Happens if it is Low?
- What Happens if You Don’t Get Enough Vitamin D?
- What Happens When You Take too Much Vitamin B Complex?
- How to Get Enough Vitamin D in Winter?
- Can Vitamin B12 Help in Lowering Blood Pressure?
- What Are The Different Types Of Vitamin B & Their Discovery, Sources, Role, Deficiency