Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms occur when the body hasn’t been getting enough of the vital vitamin. B12 is important for many processes, but particularly for making red blood cells and keeping the nerves healthy. A lack of B12 can result in a lack of red blood cells, and the cells can be abnormally large with a short lifespan. If the body doesn’t get enough red blood cells then tissues and organs will be deprived of oxygen, ad the symptoms of a deficiency will be triggered.
Many of the well-recognised symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency could be mistaken for other health conditions.
But the safest bet to avoid any health complications is to get symptoms checked out by your GP.
There are six symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, according to Bupa.
- Feeling very tired
- Breathlessness even after little exercise
- Heart palpitations
- A reduced appetite
- A sore mouth and tongue
Other symptoms have also been associated with the condition.
The health organisation adds: “If you have vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, you may also look pale or jaundiced (have a yellowy tinge to your skin and the whites of your eyes).
“As well as the symptoms of anaemia, vitamin B12-deficiency may cause symptoms related to your nerves. This is called vitamin B12 neuropathy.
“It may affect your movement and sensation, especially in your legs, cause numbness or pins and needles and decrease your sensitivity to touch, vibration or pain.
“It can also cause confusion, depression, poor concentration and forgetfulness.”
So how can vitamin B12 deficiency be avoided?
Avoiding vitamin B12 deficiency
Experts say adults aged 19 to 64 require around 1.5 micrograms (mg) a day of vitamin B12, and you should be able to get this through your diet.
Certain foods contain vitamin B12 and Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, offers the “A list of B12 foods” on its website.
Five foods rich in B12 include:
- Beef – 3 ounces contains 1.5mcg of B12
- Eggs – 1 large egg contains 0.6mcg of B12
- Fortified cereal – one cup contains 6mcg of B12
- Salmon – 3 ounces contains 4.9mcg of B12
- Low-fat milk – 1 cup contains 1.2mcg of B12
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in almost all foods of animal origin.
This means, those with plant based diets, such as vegans, are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency if they don’t eat the right foods.
For vegans, they should look to the following food sources:
- Yeast extract (for example Marmite)
- Soya milk, yoghurts and desserts
- Breakfast cereals
- Certain brands of rice drinks and oat drinks
Vitamin B12 deficiency treatment
If you consume very little vitamin B12 foods you may be advised by your GP to take a vitamin B12 supplement or to have vitamin B12 injections.
This may be the case for pregnant or breast feeding women and vegan or vegetarians.
You may also want to consider taking vitamin B12 supplements. The Department of Health advises you don’t take too much as this could be harmful.
Taking 2mg or less a day of vitamin B12 in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.