Vitamin B12 deficiency: 5 serious illnesses that can be caused due to low Vitamin B12
From cardiac issues to neurological problems, here are serious diseases that can be caused due to deficiency of Vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can affect your body in many ways causing physical, mental and neurological issues. An essential vitamin to make red blood cells, nerve cells and DNA, Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal products like meat, dairy and eggs. People who are vegetarians or vegans can have Vitamin B12 fortified foods or supplements to meet the required Vitamin B12 levels considering the body doesn't make this important nutrient on its own. Elderly especially should get their Vitamin B12 levels checked considering they have higher risk of developing this deficiency. (Also read: Role of micronutrients in boosting mental health)
"Vitamin B12 deficiency is getting more prominent in today’s world because of many dietary changes that are taking place in our community where more people are getting away from dairy products and consuming strict vegetarian foods. This condition is seen more in Indian vegans who do not consume meat/fish/eggs/dairy products like cheese which are the major source of vitamin B12 in many surveys conducted," says Dr. Anil Kumar Anand Kustagi, Senior Consultant - Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bannerghatta Road.
He also opens up on symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency and the illnesses one can develop.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency
The symptoms are usually generalised weakness, shortness of breath, mouth ulcer, loose stools, pigmentation of fingers, forgetfulness, urinary irritation, getting frequently depressed, not able to concentrate on work and hair loss.
Vitamin B12 deficiency: Health complication that may occur
Many cardiac diseases like coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular diseases are seen when you are low on Vitamin B12 levels due to either non-absorption of these essential nutrition or not eating diet rich in Vitamin B12.
Neurological disorders like weakness and decrease sensation of hands and feet, dementia, decreased taste, vision and urinary abnormalities are seen.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common causes of anaemia. Further tests need to be done and to find the exact cause.
All pregnant women should get levels of Vitamin B12 checked as the deficiency can cause foetal anomalies.
Helminthic infections may also decrease the absorption of vitamin B12 due to hyperoxia and increased gastric motility from diarrhoea.
How can Vitamin B12 deficiency be detected
"The malabsorption of the vitamin is the major cause of deficiency than inadequate intake as most of it is re-absorbed in the intestine. Tests like bone marrow examination, gastro-endoscopy and further blood tests will help to detect the cause Vitamin B12 deficiency," says Dr. Anil Kumar Anand Kustagi.
Lifestyle changes to overcome Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Encouraging intake of dairy products particularly in vegetarians is important as it is the only source.
- Restriction of alcohol intake is advised.
- Getting Vitamin B12 levels checked in all vegans is recommended. If levels are low the individual has to be treated by medication in the form of injections and oral tablets.