Can you spot the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 is one of the essential vitamins that our bodies need but cannot produce. It is found in many animal-based foods such as beef, tuna, salmon, dairy and eggs.
Because of this, it can be hard for vegetarians or vegans to get the right amount of B12 in their diet. Older adults also tend to have lower levels of B12, and as a result, B12 deficiency is common, affecting up to 15% of the general population.
Why do we need vitamin B12?
B12 provides many important health benefits. By supporting the formation of red blood cells, B12 is helpful in preventing anaemia.
Studies have also shown that those with B12 deficiency also had lower bone mineral density, suggesting that it may be useful in warding off bone-relating conditions like osteoporosis.
Further studies have shown B12 to help reduce the risk of macular degeneration, boost energy levels and improve memory.
How to tell if you have a B12 deficiency
1. Weakness or fatigue
Feeling weak or tired are common signs of a B12 deficiency. This is because your body may not be producing enough red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body.
2. Tingling sensations
Nerve damage may occur from long-term B12 deficiency. The feeling of pins and needles is a common symptom which is a result of a lack of the fatty substance myelin which protects and insulates your nerves. This is a common symptom for many other things so should not be taken as a definitive sign of B12 deficiency.
3. Pale skin
Those with a B12 deficiency may look pale or have a yellow tinge to the skin and whites of the eyes. This is another indication of a lack of red blood cells.
4. Blurred vision
Damages to the optic nerve can occur due to low levels of vitamin B12, resulting in disturbed or blurred vision. This is due to damage in the nervous system, disrupting the signals that travel from your eye to your brain.
5. Changes in mood
Many people who are deficient in vitamin B12 report changes in mood. Studies show a link between low B12 levels and depression and dementia.