Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to long-term neurological changes in the body, so recognising symptoms as early as possible is very important. Neurological changes can include memory loss, loss of coordination and damage to the nervous system. The symptoms of vitamin b12 deficiency occur when the body lacks red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is integral to the production of red blood cells, and a lack of B12 can result in less red blood cells being made.
If the body lacks red blood cells then tissues and organs in the body will become deprived of oxygen, triggering the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Three symptoms of vitamin B12 that could be missed or mistaken for less serious health problems are burry vision, bad breath and tingling in the hands.
Blurry vision can occur when untreated B12 deficiency causes nervous system damage to the optic nerve that leads to your eyes.
This was the finding of a study titled ‘B12 deficiency with neurological manifestations in the absence of anaemia’.
The damage can play havoc on the nervous signal that travels from the eye to the brain, therefore impairing vision.
Optic neuropathy is the medical term for this condition.
About 10 per cent of all bad breath cases are caused by conditions outside of the mouth, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A vitamin B12 deficiency causes the number of enzymes which help with digestion to decrease in the blood.
This increases the amount of waste in the blood, possibly leading to bad breath.
Dr Craig Maxwell, from the Integrative Medical Center in the US, explained to the medical centre: “Poor diet can contribute to the development of the gastrointestinal and oral health problems that cause bad breath.
“A diet based primarily on junk food may also contribute to nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, can cause bad breath.
“The best natural cure, in this case, is a wholesome, nutrient-rich diet of organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, wild-caught fish, eggs, and healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, and olive oil.”
Tingling in the hands
Experts say this can occur because of the vitamin’s impact on the body’s nervous system.
Vitamin B12 helps produce a substance called myelin, which is vital for the nervous system.
Myelin is a protective coating that shields the nerves and helps them transmit sensations.
So if a person lacks vitamin B12, their body may not produce enough myelin to coat their nerves.
When this happens, nerves can become damaged.
Problems are more common in nerves in the hands and feet, which are clare peripheral nerves.
When damage to the peripheral nerves happens, tingling can occur.
But pins and needles doesn’t necessarily mean you have a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The NHS explains it usually happens “when the blood supply to the nerves is cut off. This is usually when you sit or sleep on part of your body.”
If this is the case it should only last a few minutes.
But if you frequently experience pins and needles or it lasts a long time, you should see your GP.
How to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency
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, lists the best dietary sources of the vitamin.
Here are five:
- Clams – three ounces contains 84mcg of B12
- Liver – three ounces contains 70.7mcg of B12
- Fortified cereal – one cup contains 6mcg of B12
- Beef – three ounces contains 1.5mcg of B12
- Egg – one large egg contains 0.6mcg of B12
- Nonfat plain greek yoghurt – six ounces contains 1.3mcg of B12
Who is most at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency?
The NHS Trusts explains who’s most at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
It says: “Vegans and vegetarians consuming limited dairy produce have a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency due to limited dietary intakes.
“The elderly population and people taking metformin for a long time can also be at increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency due to vitamin B12 not being absorbed properly in the body.”
If you consume very little vitamin B12 foods you may be advised 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.
If you take 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.