Various chemical indicators are used to highlight B12 deficiency and while the results of the recent research are still being debated, it is known that the amount of B12 absorbed by the body is directly related to the amount that is in the food consumed. However, it must be noted that when large amounts of B12 is consumed the percentage of absorption decreases. In other words, excessive intake of B12 rich foods serves no purpose.
B12 is found only in food of animal origin - that is non-vegetarian foods. There are no naturally occurring sources of B12 in plant-based sources - vegetarian foods. Some plant foods such as seaweed and mushrooms do contain added B12, but these are not fully absorbed by the human body. However, some studies do suggest that Japanese seaweed can prevent B12 deficiency in humans.
The Causes Of B12 Deficiency
The common causes of B12 deficiency are:
- Pernicious anemia which is a type of autoimmune gastritis
- The increased demand for the vitamin in pregnant and/or lactating women
- Diseases of the digestive system
- Long-term use of specific medications
- A purely vegan diet
The Effects Of B12 Deficiency
The effects of B12 deficiency include:
- Degeneration of the spinal cord
- Memory loss that often results in dementia
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Increased risk of osteoporosis
- Increased risk of heart attacks and strokes
- Age-related macular degeneration that can result in blindness
- Pregnant women may give birth to babies with neural tube defects
- The elderly may become excessively frail and weak and be prone to falling and have an increased risk of getting infections.
Vitamin B12 is especially important for women of childbearing age and to the elderly. However, an adequate ingestion and absorption of B12 through life is necessary for optimal health.
Article by Dr. Yashica Priya,
Resident, Department of Neurology, Kauvery Hospital