Kauvery Hospital | Patient Newsletters | A Monthly Newsletter from your Partners in Good Health

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps in keeping the body's nerves and blood cells healthy and promotes the production of DNA, the genetic material found in all cells of the body. Recent research suggests that a deficiency of B12 in the body can have serious health implications resulting in the development of various diseases.

This deficiency is usually caused by an inadequate/improper diet and/or inadequate absorption of the vitamin contained in the foods consumed. This deficiency is most frequently found in developing countries, among the elderly and those who have a vegetarian diet.

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:
  • Anemia
  • 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


Find a Doctor Teleconsultation Emergency