If you’re feeling tired, weak or have recently lost an unusual amount of weight, you might be vitamin B12 deficient. But there is good news! You don’t have to feel this way – and the fix is easier than you think. We’re here to help educate you on the importance of vitamin B12, the warning signs of deficiency and how to safely treat deficiency.
Why it is so important
Even if you’ve never heard of it, vitamin B12 is essential to maintaining optimal health and wellbeing. It plays a role in a number of bodily processes, including heart health and cognitive functioning. In fact, research shows that individuals with low levels of the vitamin are both more likely to suffer a cardiac event and are more likely to develop memory impairment disorders.
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin naturally present in many of the foods we eat. When you don’t get enough of it, it can cause harmful effects in your body. For example, studies have shown that the vitamin plays a role in the regulation of homocysteine metabolism.1 Elevated homocysteine levels are considered an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.
Vitamin B12 is also very important for sustaining cognitive function and is even linked to dementia. Enter our good friend homocysteine again. An accumulation of homocysteine is thought to decrease the amount of certain substances needed to mobilize neurotransmitters. When neurotransmitters aren’t mobilized, there is a marked decrease in cognitive functioning and ability.
Other functions affected by vitamin B12
In addition to maintaining heart health and cognitive functioning, vitamin B12 plays many other important roles in the human body.
- Linked to production of DNA elements
- Involved in the production of red blood cells
- Can help to regenerate bone marrow
- Helps maintain the health of your nervous system
- Prevents megaloblastic anaemia
Warning signs of vitamin B12 deficiency
According to the NIH, 1.5% to 15% of Americans are vitamin B12 deficient – that’s a lot of people! And certain populations are more at risk of deficiency than others, especially those suffering from malabsorption disorders. Older adults, persons with pernicious anemia or gastrointestinal disorders, those who have undergone gastrointestinal surgery, vegetarians, vegans, and infants of mothers who follow a strict vegetarian diet are the most likely to be vitamin B12 deficient.
If you are a member of one of these populations, it is crucial you be on the lookout for the following warning signs and symptoms so you can get a jump start on feeling better faster.
Symptoms of deficiency:
- Megaloblastic anemia
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Numbness and tingling the hands or feet
- Difficulty maintaining balance
- Poor memory
- Soreness of the mouth or tongue
*Many of the warning signs associated with vitamin B12 deficiency are general and therefore may be the result of another illness or deficiency. A blood test is the only way to confirm vitamin B12 deficiency. Speak with your doctor before starting any treatment.
How to treat deficiency
Treating vitamin B12 deficiency is surprisingly easy and it starts in the kitchen. According to Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 3, “Nutritional needs should be met primarily from foods. … In some cases, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients that otherwise may be consumed in less-than-recommended amounts.” With that in mind, we present to you a list of the top foods you need to eat to treat vitamin B12 deficiency.
Best natural sources of vitamin B12:
- Red meat
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified soy
Supplement with ELEMENTS complete
You might have noticed that most of the foods listed above are not vegetarian/vegan friendly. But that’s okay! When you supplement your regular diet with ELEMENTS Complete, we offer you the benefits of an additional 33.33mg of vitamin B12 daily, well above the daily recommended intake (DRI) of 25-100 μg.
Don’t wait, start feeling better today!
- Clarke R. B-vitamins and prevention of dementia. Proc Nutr Soc 2008; 67:75-81.
- Hutto BR. Folate and cobalamin in psychiatric illness. Compr Psychiatry 1997; 38:305-14.
- Healthy Eating Patterns: Dietary Patterns, Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020 ;(n.d.). Retrieved January 17, 2017, from https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/chapter-1/healthy-eating-patterns/