Five hidden signs you could be deficient in ‘crucial’ vitamin B12
While many are aware of all the signs that indicate a lack of certain vitamins in diets, such as vitamins C and D, a nutritionist has highlighted that it is “often harder” to detect the symptoms that show a deficiency in one of the most important, yet underestimated vitamins of all – vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin that plays a major role in our bodily functions, from the brain and skin to nails.
Katarina Cepinova, nutritional therapist at Well.Actually told Express.co.uk: “Vitamin B12 insufficiency is more common amongst younger adults and 60 plus, with as much as 20 percent of those over sixty are deficient. As we age, our body naturally makes less stomach acid and intrinsic factor — which are needed for absorbing B12 from foods.”
Ms Cepinova also noted the importance of considering insufficiency, not just deficiency.
She explained: “Deficiency is what the Government or NHS terms as the minimum daily amount required, where under this level could cause more serious health issues.”
However, she continued: “Optimum sufficiency levels could be much higher than the minimum amount, where people still fall short of optimum levels, which can present milder health problems.”
Here are five hidden signs that could mean a person is deficient in this essential vitamin without even realising it.
Impaired cognitive function
The brain and neurons require vitamin B12 for healthy function, growth and protection.
Ms Cepinova said: “B12 deficiency is strongly associated with cognitive impairment, which can impact our decision-making and ability to focus, and it can even cause the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. These conditions can respond well to B12 supplementation if detected early.”
B vitamins are known for being important co-factors in energy production in cells. According to Ms Cepinova, vitamin B12 is no different, but it is also involved in the pathway that creates and repairs our genetic material, DNA.
Ms Cepinova explained: “This is why vitamin B12 can help boost energy levels and support physical performance. B12 allows your body to metabolise food, by helping it break down fats, proteins and carbohydrates you consume, into energy that your body can use effectively.”
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Vitamin B12 is primarily sourced from animal protein; therefore, it can be hard for people to consume the recommended daily amount of B12 on a strict vegan or predominantly vegetarian diet.
Taking a daily B12 vitamin supplement could be beneficial in these circumstances specifically and these can be easily picked from health stores.
Low mood and poor sleep
Playing a huge role in the production of serotonin, a deficiency in B12 can also contribute to developing symptoms of low mood, disrupted sleep and depression.
Ms Cepinova said: “This vitamin plays a crucial role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood, so it is extremely important to make sure you are eating a diet containing an adequate amount of B12, or daily supplements if you are unable to keep this up in food alone.”
Low immune system
A weak immune system can also indicate a deficiency in B12. A lack of B12 can affect the development of white blood cells, which are necessary for optimal immune system function.
Ms Cepinova also noted that vitamin B12 also allows the body to produce red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body to keep it “fighting fit”.
She added: “Ensuring you are getting enough B12 is essential in supporting cell health and boosting your immune system. If low in B12, your body will struggle to fight off infections.”
Pale skin, brittle nails and greying hair
Given vitamin B12’s role in cell production, adequate levels of this vitamin are needed to promote healthy hair, skin and nails.
Ms Cepinova said: “A lack of vitamin B12 in your diet can cause anaemia, which can result in pale-looking skin and even greying hair, due to the lack of red blood cells. Another sign that you are lacking in this vital vitamin, is if your nails seem pale in colour, weak and curve down past your fingertips.”
NHS guidelines for the recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 for adults is 1.5 micrograms, and higher doses have been found to be safe up to 2000mcg.
Ms Cepinova said: “Your GP can prescribe medication ranging from 50mcg to 1000mcg depending on the severity of the need. According to the NHS, taking 50 – 150 mcg a day for diet-related deficiency can help boost levels. For non-diet-related deficiency, up to 1000mcg twice a day is recommended.
“You can also find B12 supplementation over the counter in health stores and pharmacies, their strength rating from 10 mcg to 1200mcg.”
B12 throat sprays, such as Well.Actually, are also readily available and easily absorbable for those more averse to tablet supplements.
Ms Cepinova said: “Your body absorbs only as much as it needs, so overdosing on vitamin B12 is not a commonly reported issue, as any excess passes through your urine.”
But, she added: “If you do not eat meat, fish or dairy foods, getting enough vitamin B12 from fortified foods and supplementation is even more important.”
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