A vitamin B12 deficiency can take years to become apparent. This health problem, more common than it seems, ultimately causes serious consequences on the body. It is often due to a vegan diet or absorption problems. Nutrimuscle tells you everything there is to know about a lack of vitamin B12, what the symptoms are and how to protect yourself from it.
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin . It is one of the 8 B vitamins and is also called cobalamin, due to its high concentration of cobalt. This vitamin is called “essential” because it cannot be synthesized by the body. It must be provided by an exogenous source, that is to say through food or supplementation.
It is not possible to contract an excess of vitamin B12 , the latter being water-soluble, the excess is eliminated in the urine.
According to the 2021 ANSES report, the recommended intake of vitamin B12 is 4 µg/day. The human body can absorb 1 to 5 mcg of B12 per day.
This vitamin is mainly found in meat and little in dairy products. Vegetarians and vegans have higher than average vitamin B12 needs and are strongly encouraged to supplement.
Roles and benefits of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is involved in several biological processes essential for the proper functioning of vital functions. Its roles are as follows:
- It participates in the formation of red blood cells. These transport oxygen in our body, which preserves cardiovascular health.
- It allows the synthesis of DNA, essential for cell growth and division.
- It guarantees the normal functioning of energy metabolism
- It preserves psychological functions and good memory
- It reduces fatigue and oxidative stress.
Vitamin B12 supplementation reduces body aches. In fact, it inhibits the activity of free radicals, molecules responsible for inflammation. It also helps ward off fatigue and exhaustion and indirectly contributes to the development of muscle mass.
Causes, risk factors and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
Several factors can contribute to a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The main causes are a diet low in animal sources, such as vegans and vegetarians. Some people have problems absorbing this vitamin. Digestive disorders or a lack of intrinsic factor are the main causes.
Some people are more likely to develop a vitamin B12 deficiency. Risk factors include older age, as our body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases over time. People with digestive conditions, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, are also more likely to have a deficit related to absorption problems. Additionally, people following a vegan diet without adequate supplementation are at increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
A deficiency may be asymptomatic for years. However, this vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to various discomforts, such as a swollen tongue, motor difficulties, memory problems and persistent fatigue. These symptoms can progress and affect the nervous system, causing irreversible damage if left untreated. Don't wait until you are deficient in vitamin B12 to start supplementing.
Preventive measures to prevent a lack of vitamin B12
Preventing vitamin B12 deficiency is simple. A balanced diet including sources of vitamin B12 of animal origin is ideal. In the case of a meat-free diet, vitamin B12 supplementation is necessary.
Carry out regular medical checks and diagnoses via blood tests. This makes it possible to check the proper absorption of vitamin B12 and prevent asymptomatic deficiencies.
Vitamin B12 supplements are available in different forms. Always prefer the form of methylcobalamin which is the bioavailable form in the body. It therefore does not need to be transformed by the body to manifest its effectiveness.
What you must remember
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for the proper functioning of the body, particularly in the metabolism of blood cells and proteins. Certain populations are more likely to develop a vitamin B12 deficiency: the elderly, vegans and people with digestive pathologies.
A deficiency may be asymptomatic for many years. It can also manifest as headaches, increased fatigue and memory loss. Recovery is difficult, so don't wait until you're lacking vitamin B12 to start supplementing. In case of deficiency, contact a doctor and follow a suitable supplementation plan.