Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient that your body needs to stay in optimal health. Since your body is not capable of producing this vitamin on its own, you need to rely on diet and supplements for it. Deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause an array of health issues such as fatigue, mood swings, dizziness and even gradual loss of mobility. For this reason, you must pay extra attention to prevent deficiency in the first place and address it if it occurs. But this is not all that you should know about vitamin B12 to understand its significance for your body. Let us highlight some more vital facts about it.
Vitamin B12 is the energy vitamin
Also known as the energy vitamin, this nutrient is responsible for the formation of DNA, blood and nerve cells. It keeps your body full of energy by regulating the metabolism. Further, it promotes brain health and strengthens the immune system. Not having enough of it can make you feel physically exhausted and mentally inactive. This happens because there are not enough blood cells to carry oxygen to your body and brain.
There are not a lot of options in B12-rich foods
Since your body cannot synthesize B12 naturally, you need to rely greatly on diet for its supply. However, the options in B12-rich foods are quite limited, more so for vegetarians and vegans. The main dietary sources include dairy products, eggs, poultry, meat and fish. Fortified cereals can also provide you a rich supply of the nutrient. Still, the choices are limited if you are looking for the right foods to have enough of the nutrient or make up for its deficiency.
Vegetarians and vegans are high-risk groups
Since vitamin B12 is chiefly found in animal products, you will be at high risk of deficiency if you are vegetarian or vegan. Vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs should have at least once source from both the groups every day. Vegans, on the other hand, would have to depend on fortified foods and supplements. For those who want to know if vitamin B12 injections can help vegans, the answer is obviously yes. In fact, you must absolutely have them if you want to keep deficiency at bay. But consult an expert first for the right dosage and frequency!
People aged over 50 are also at high risk
Another high-risk category for B12-deficiency is people over the age of 50 years. Older individuals tend to have poor appetite. Even if you eat a balanced diet, you may not be able to absorb this nutrient from the food sources. As a result, people in this age group often experience the symptoms of B12 deficiency. The best way to deal with it is by taking oral or injectable supplements on a regular basis. Be sure to consult a qualified practitioner because supplements may interfere with other medications.
Heavy drinking can cause deficiency
Another important fact about vitamin B12 is that alcoholics are more likely to suffer from its deficiency. This is because heavy drinking can cause gastritis, a condition when your stomach lining gets irritated and fails to produce adequate quantity of stomach acid. The latter is the key to B12 absorption from food, which means that its inadequacy can result in deficiency even if you are eating right. Alcohol also impairs the liver function and this is the organ which stores B12.
B12 deficiency is often hard to detect
Unfortunately, it is not easy to detect the deficiency of vitamin B12 and you may continue suffering over the years. The early symptoms include weakness, fatigue and brain fogging, which overlap the signs of several other conditions. Even the progressive signs such as numbness in the limbs, depression and mood swings are not highly distinctive. Your best bet is to be aware and watchful and report the symptoms to a physician if you experience them consistently. Vegetarians, vegans and aged people need to be extra vigilant.
Deficiency may cause permanent damage
Remember that you should not take the symptoms frivolously because B12-deficiency can cause permanent damage if left untreated. The long-term and serious side effects include nerve damage, poor mobility, erectile dysfunction, insomnia, memory loss and even loss of bowel and bladder control. The good news is that a majority of side effects are preventable and reversible if diagnosed and treated early.
Being aware of these facts can make all the difference because it can save you from vitamin B12 deficiency. As you understand the right food choices and know the significance of supplementation, you will probably take the right approach. After all, this is one nutrient that you should never ignore!