Vitamin B12 is one of the most important vitamins you can get. It fuels your body’s cells, helps build DNA and red blood cells, and keeps your nervous system healthy.
But there are a lot of myths about vitamin B12. And many people don’t get enough from their diets. Vitamin B12 deficiency is common in people over age 50, but it can affect younger people too.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause serious health problems if left untreated, such as depression, dementia, anemia and nerve damage.
If you have any of the following symptoms — or if you’re concerned about your diet — talk to your doctor about getting tested for vitamin B12 deficiency or talk with a registered dietitian about how much vitamin B12 you need each day:
- You’ve had stomach problems
If you’ve been experiencing chronic diarrhea or constipation for more than three months, it could be due to a lack of vitamin B12 in your diet. This condition is known as megaloblastic anemia, which occurs when red blood cells don’t mature properly due to insufficient amounts of folate or vitamin B12.
- You feel tired all the time
Vitamin B12 is vital for energy production in the body; without it, you may struggle with fatigue and weakness throughout the day. If you notice these symptoms along with weight loss and frequent headaches, talk to your doctor about testing your levels of this essential nutrient.
- You have weakness in your arms or legs
This symptom could be caused by anemia, which often results from insufficient iron or folic acid intake; however, it can also be caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency. This nutrient helps produce hemoglobin — the protein found inside red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body — so a lack of it can lead to fatigue and weakness.