Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that belongs to the group of B complex. It is a very important vitamin as participates in several biochemical body reactions. In specific, it takes part in immune system integrity, haematopoiesis, nerve function, metabolism of macronutrients (carbohydrates and proteins) while also several studies link vitamin B12 deficiency with Alzheimer’s disease.
As vitamin b12 interferes with the metabolism of vitamin B6 and folic acid, most of the times they are administered together for better action and absorption.
What factors can cause vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 is normally abundant in animal foods such as meat, eggs and milk. Most of the times deficiency appears when foods rich in vitamin B12 are excluded from diet and oftern happens in people who are vegans, elderly, alcoholics or due to starvation.
The metabolism of vitamin B12 begins from the stomach, where a secreted endogenous factor binds with vitamin B12 and helps it’s absorption in the ileum. Malabsorption and thus B12 deficiency may occur in case of reduced secretion of this endogenous factor from the stomach or in case of surgery (gastrectomy, ileal resection).
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are presented gradually over several months or years. The most common symptoms are:
- Pale and yellowish skin complexion
- Weight loss
- Tingling or cramps in hands and feet
- Muscular weakness
- Confusion and weak memory
As vitamin B12 has a very important role in all body systems, prolonged deficiency leads to severe conditions and injuries such as:
Haematologic effects: Megaloblastic anemia
Neurological effects: Hallucinations, neuropathies
Psychiatric effects: Irritability, mild cognitive deduction, depression
Cardiovascular effects: Increased risk of heart attacks and stroke