Are you at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency? Here's what you should know about this nutrient

Animal products like fish, meat, eggs and dairy products are good sources of this nutrient. @Shutterstock

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that is essential for proper functioning of your body. Read on to know all about this water-soluble nutrient.

Vitamin B-12 is a water soluble essential nutrient from the B group of vitamins. You need it to maintain the health of your nerve tissue, proper brain function and the production of red blood cells. It is also known as cobalamin. Sometimes, your body may not have enough of this vitamin and this can lead to serious health conditions.

Benefits of vitamin B12

This vitamin is essential for your brain and nervous system. It stimulates the formation of red blood cells and helps in creating and regulating DNA. It is also necessary for cell metabolism and it plays an important role in synthesizing fatty acids and production of energy in the body. It also helps your body to effectively absorb folic acid.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to unwanted and adverse health conditions. It can cause irreversible and damage to the nervous system and brain. Even a slight deficiency can trigger symptoms like depression, confusion, cognitive issues and fatigue. You may also experience constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss if you have this deficiency. Over time, it can lead to neurological problems including numbness and tingling in the hands and feet and difficulty in coordination. Facial tremors are also common as are reflex problems, feeding difficulties and constant irritation.

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Dangers of vitamin B12 deficiency

Severe deficiency can permanent nerve and brain damage. It also increases your risk of psychosis, mania and dementia. Anemia is a common problem and along with it you may also suffer from shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. Moreover, your immunity also goes for a toss and you suffer from frequent infections.

Food sources of this vitamin

Animal products like fish, meat, eggs and dairy products are good sources of this nutrient. However, it does not typically occur in plant foods and this is one reason why vegetarians and vegans may be deficient in this vitamin. You can get it from milk, cheese, and yogurt. There are now fortified cereals that contain this vitamin. Vegans can include soya milk to their diet to get vitamin B12 from food. You can also take this vitamin in the form of a supplement. But consult your doctor before doing so.

Things to keep in mind

If you are planning to take this vitamin in supplement form, consult your doctor first. Remember that it can interact with drugs like metformin, proton pump inhibitors and h2 receptor agonists. People on these drugs may have trouble absorbing this vitamin.

Conditions that may interfere with vitamin B12 absorption

People with pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disease where patients lack enough of the intrinsic factor (IF) protein in the stomach, have trouble absorbing this vitamin. Other than this, Crohn's disease, gastritis, celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease also interferes with absorption of this nutrient. Alcoholics face this problem as do diabetic people on metformin.

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