Vitamin B12 deficiency, what you absolutely need to know

Vitamin B12 deficiency, what you absolutely need to know

The mineral-containing vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, plays a central role in various metabolic processes. Older people are often affected by a vitamin B12 deficiency. The absorption of the vitamin becomes more difficult with increasing age. People over the age of 50 are particularly affected by deficiencies. Unfortunately, they often go undetected.

Below we have compiled the most important information for you.

1. importance of the vitamin

Vitamin B12 is crucially involved in blood formation, cell division and the breakdown of fatty acids. It also builds up the protective myelin sheaths around the nerve fibers. The vitamin must be ingested via food, as the human body is unable to produce it on its own.

2. symptoms of a deficiency state

In most cases, a vitamin B12 deficiency manifests itself in the form of neurological complaints. In this context, depression and memory disorders are worth mentioning. These symptoms are often accompanied by gait instability and reflex failures. Symptoms such as tingling in the arms and legs, numbness or burning of the tongue can also indicate a deficiency. It is not uncommon for a vitamin B12 deficiency to be accompanied by a specific form of anemia, which manifests itself in increased fatigue.

3. causes of vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs more frequently in older people. This is also the case when many foods are consumed that have a high content of vitamin B12. In these cases, assimilation in the small intestine does not work. In many cases, certain medications are responsible for this, such as the drug metformin, which is taken for type 2 diabetes, or gastric acid blockers. These drugs prevent the production of gastric acid and prevent the body from absorbing vitamin B12 from food. Chronic gastritis, which occurs more frequently with age, can also lead to insufficient absorption of the vitamin. Patients with Crohn's disease often undergo operations to reduce the size of the stomach or small intestine. In these cases, absorption can also be impeded because the absorption surface in the digestive tract is reduced.

4. determination of a deficiency condition

A vitamin B12 deficiency can often go undetected. Blood tests often only look at how high the vitamin B12 level is in the blood. However, this value does not indicate how much vitamin B12 is actually utilized by the body. It is advisable to additionally determine the holotrans-cobalamin (HoloTC) in the blood. This is the vitamin B12 that binds to the transport protein transcobalamin and is responsible for ensuring that the vitamin reaches the cells. In cases with impaired kidney function, methylmalonic acid (MMA) can also be an important indicator. High levels can indicate vitamin B12 deficiency.

5. treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency

For people with acute deficiency states, the vitamin can be injected directly with a syringe. Less acute cases can be treated with high-dose preparations. Elderly people who take gastric acid blockers daily or for whom it cannot be ensured that the tablets are actually swallowed should be injected with the vitamin at regular intervals.

6. prevent deficiencies

There are only a few foods that contain vitamin B12. Only in animal foods is it present in sufficient quantities. Fish, meat and eggs are the most important suppliers. In plant foods or dairy products, the vitamin is present only in small amounts and the concentration is not sufficient to meet the daily requirement. People who do not eat animal foods can take the vitamin via tablets. In contrast to underdosing, overdosing is practically impossible. High-dose vitamin preparations can therefore be taken with a clear conscience.

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