Vitamin B-12 is known as the ENERGY vitamin and it is a powerhouse! It is a vital part of a heathy immune system and without it your metabolism will not function properly. Additionally, Vitamin B-12 keeps blood cells and the entire nervous system healthy. Vitamin B-12 is only found naturally in animal products such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products. Plant based foods do not contain Vitamin B-12 unless the food is “fortified”.
The amount of vitamin B-12 a person needs depends on their age, but the average adult requires a recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 2.4 mcg (micrograms). Pregnant women will require a little more. It is easy to get the RDA of Vitamin B-12, especially if you regularly eat foods rich in this important nutrient like clams and beef liver. It is nearly impossible to overdose on Vitamin B-12 because the body absorbs what it needs and expels the extra. However, at least 15% of people are deficient in Vitamin B-12. Regular visits and checkups by your doctor can help you decide the amount your body needs.
Who is at risk for Vitamin B-12 deficiency?
- Vegetarians and Vegans are usually deficient because animal products are not part of their daily food consumption.
- Individuals who undergo weight loss surgery or who have digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease or Celiac disease as these conditions can decrease the amount of Vitamin B-12 that the body is able to absorb.
- Older adults that have a minimum amount of hydrochloric acid in their stomach will also have a hard time absorbing Vitamin B-12.
Symptoms associated with Vitamin B-12 deficiency:
- Muscle weakness
- Unexplained tiredness
- Loss of appetite
- Tingling in the feet and/or hands
- Mental confusion
- Mouth sores
- Quicken heart rate
- Poor memory
The human body can store Vitamin B-12 for several years so it is hard to detect symptoms associated with Vitamin B-12 deficiency because they come upon very gradually. Also, the signs and symptoms vary from person to person which makes it even harder to diagnosis – even in later stages. Nerve damage is a complication when all Vitamin B-12 stored in the body is used up. This can lead to numbness in the hand and feet causing shaking movements and difficulty walking. Similar to other symptoms, they can be attributed to other ailments and causes, including the natural aging process.
The only way to know for sure that you are not deficient in Vitamin B-12 is to get a blood test by a trained professional. If caught early, many symptoms can be reversed and not cause permanent physical and neurological damage.