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Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Depression to Anemia, Check Symptoms and Food to eat

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms: A simple blood test to check the levels of Vitamin B12 can detect the presence of a deficiency. An essential nutrient that plays an important role in the normal functioning of our body, Vitamin B12 deficiency should not be taken lightly.

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in the development and normal functioning of our body. As  Dr Paritosh Baghel, Senior Consultant -Internal Medicine, SL Raheja Hospital Mahim - A Fortis Associate, points out, Vitamin B12 is needed for the production of red blood cells. "It is an important vitamin needed for DNA synthesis in the cells of our body. Also, it is needed for development and myelination (ie. coating the nerve cells) of the nervous system," he adds. Deficiency of Vitamin B12 is common and can lead to several health problems.

What is Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin belonging to the Vitamin B-complex family. "Cobalt is found in Vitamin B12 and hence it is also called ‘Cobalamin’. It is in two active forms, Methyl-Cobalamin and 5-Deoxyadenosyl-Cobalamin, and two inactive forms, Hydroxy-Cobalamin and Cyano-Cobalamin, which are converted to the active forms in the body by enzymatic reactions," says Dr Baghel.

Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Dr Baghel says that the deficiency can occur due to reasons like: 

  • Low intake of sufficient quantities of B12 in the diet
  • Inability to absorb Vitamin B12 from food due to diseases of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Use of certain medications after gastrointestinal surgery etc
  • Individuals with gastrointestinal disorders face absorption issues
  • Vegetarians and people who consume antacids on regular basis are prone to develop Vitamin B12 deficiency

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Megaloblastic Anemia is the characteristic feature of B12 deficiency which is sometimes associated with Pancytopenia i.e., low white blood cells (WBC) and platelets along with low Hemoglobin, says Dr Baghel. He shares the symptoms: 

  • Beefy tongue
  • Easy fatigability
  • Palpitations
  • Pallor
  • Weight loss
  • Hyperpigmentation of knuckles 
  • Neurological symptoms: Tingling or numbness in hands and feet, imbalance while walking, dementia, increased forgetfulness is seen with Vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Deficiency of Vitamin B12 in pregnancy: It can lead to neurological and hematological issues in the newborn, such as Neural Tube Defects, developmental delays, and anemia.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency is also associated with symptoms of Depression.

When to Visit the Doctor

"If you are a vegetarian, regularly consume antacids, have disorders of absorption or have undergone gastrointestinal surgery and have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, you should get a check-up from a doctor. A simple blood test to check the levels of B12 can detect the presence of deficiency," says Dr Baghel.

Foods that are a source of Vitamin B12

"Vitamin B12 is not found in a vegetarian diet. Food of animal origin is the natural source of Vitamin B12. Fish, meat, poultry products, dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified foods such as cereals, etc. are rich sources of Vitamin B12," says Dr Baghel.

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