Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an essential role in the production of red blood cells and the proper functioning of your nervous system. It also helps in DNA synthesis and the metabolism of protein and fat. B12 deficiency can cause severe health problems, but fortunately it’s rarely seen in healthy people who follow a varied diet.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is also known as hypovitaminosis B12. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement and a prescription medication. Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia. Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue.
Are you Vitamin B12 deficient?
If you’ve been feeling tired, weak, or depressed, it’s possible that you’re deficient in vitamin B12. Other symptoms include constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. If you go untreated, the deficiency can cause nerve damage — as well as megaloblastic anemia. This condition causes large red blood cells that don’t mature properly. These immature cells aren’t able to carry oxygen efficiently around your body.
If you suspect you may have a B12 deficiency, see your doctor. He or she will take a blood sample to see if your levels are low or normal. If they’re low, treatment is straightforward: You’ll receive vitamin B12 injections or take supplements by mouth.
Getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet is easy because it’s found naturally in many foods and added to others. It’s present in meat, fish and dairy products, so vegetarians and vegans are at risk for deficiency if they don’t eat other foods that are fortified with this important nutrient.