In the ABCs of vitamins, vitamin B12 is often overlooked. But it’s essential for the making of nerve and red blood cells; as well as DNA along with many other body processes. Adults and teens need just 2.4 micrograms a day, but you can fall short even on this small amount.
You’re at particular risk of a B12 deficiency if you are a vegetarian because animal foods, like meat and dairy; are the only foods that deliver it. If you have a health problem that affects nutrient absorption, like Crohn’s disease; have had bariatric surgery or take certain medications, you also run the risk. So do people over 50 because of changes in stomach acids.
Common medications that can affect your body’s B12 levels:
- PPIs such as omeprazole (Prilosec) and lansoprazole (Prevacid), used for treating heartburn or GERD.
- H2 receptor antagonists such as famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac), also used for treating those and other conditions.
- Metformin, the diabetes drug.
A deficiency can develop slowly over time or come on rather fast. Possible warning signs include emotional or thinking problems; fatigue, weakness, weight loss, constipation, and numbness or tingling in hands and feet. These can also be symptoms of many other conditions, but it takes only a blood test to diagnose a vitamin B12 deficiency.
If you do not eat animal-based foods, you can boost vitamin B12 with fortified soy foods or grain products like cereal. And unless the deficiency is severe, you will get enough through a multivitamin supplement. When the deficiency is more serious, your doctor might give you a vitamin B12 shot to bring your level up to normal.
Be certain that the doctor who prescribes vitamin B12 supplementation; for you is aware of any medications you are taking to avoid negative interactions. The human body needs vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out other functions. The average adult should get 2.4 micrograms a day. Like most vitamins, B12 was making the body. Instead, it must be gotten from food or supplements.
And therein lies the problem: Some people don’t consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs; while others can not absorb enough, no matter how much they take in. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2% of adults over age 50; have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20% may have a borderline vitamin B12 deficiency.