Vitamin B12 is a crucial B vitamin. The human body needs this water-soluble vitamin for muscle health, effective brain function, and also the production of red blood cells and regulation of DNA. Another name for this B-complex vitamin is Cobalamin. And a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to multiple problems.
In cases when levels of vitamin B complex become too low to satisfy the strain of the body, it leads to a deficiency or insufficiency. It mainly occurs due to poor diet, or inability of the body to soak up Vitamin B12, which usually happens as we keep getting older.
If there’s vitamin B12 complex deficiency in your body. It can lead to a decrease in the normal red blood cell production, termed as anemia, which in turn, impairs oxygen delivery. In fact, Megaloblastic anemia, also known as nutritional-deficiency anemia, is caused by folate and vitamin B12 deficiency.
Also, read: Why your body needs vitamin B12, an essential nutrient only found in animal foods
What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
According to celebrity nutritionist Shweta Shah, a gentle deficiency may cause no symptoms, but if untreated, it should cause symptoms such as:
- Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
- Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- A smooth tongue
- Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas
- Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, weakness in muscles, or problems in walking
- Vision loss
- Mental problems like depression, blackout, or behavioral changes
Foods for vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 is mostly found in animal products and it isn’t naturally found in plant-based foods, and so, vegans and vegetarians are mostly B12 deficient. So they need to be careful and incorporate the right foods in their diet.
“Most people can prevent B complex deficiency by eating enough meat, seafood, dairy products, yogurt, cheese, tofu, coconut, cereals, soy, and eggs. It’s also available in small amounts in bananas, apples, berries, nuts and seeds,” Shah told Health Shots.
For vegans and vegetarians, spinach, a powerhouse of nutrients, can be an ideal vitamin B12 contributor in their diets. Beetroot, too, is enriched with iron apart from being a storehouse of Vitamin B12. One can also have chickpeas, a healthy substitute for those who don’t eat non-vegetarian foods.
There are certain foods that also need a cut-down in case of vitamin B12 deficiency.
“Some foods and drinks can interfere with vitamin B complex intake like alcohol, caffeine and processed foods, etc should be avoided completely,” Shah added.
Albeit, if you do not eat animal products, or you have a medical condition that limits how well your body absorbs nutrients, your doctor will advise you to take B12 in a multivitamin form or other supplement along with foods fortified with vitamin B12.
Hence, a well-balanced diet with all the essential nutrients is vital to cope with B12 deficiency.