Dangers of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Cobalamin, or vitamin B12, is a vital water-soluble vitamin. It plays a very important role in the production of DNA and red blood cells. Vitamin B12 is also essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. It is naturally found in dairy products, eggs, meat, fish, and poultry. It is also found in fortified products with B12 like plant-based milk and some varieties of bread.
Vitamin B12 dissolves in water, travels through the bloodstream, and is absorbed in the intestines. The excess amount is stored in the liver and the body can store it for 4 years. Rest of the vitamin B12 is excreted in the urine. Vitamin B12 deficiency is very common and is seen in almost 40% of the population. Elderly, vegetarians, pregnant women, and individuals with intestinal and renal disorders are at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Atrophic gastritis, immune system disorders, and pernicious anemia are some amongst many vitamin B-12 deficiency causes.
As vitamin B12 is vital for bodily functions, its deficiency can cause the below-mentioned dangers:
• Glossitis and Mouth Ulcers: Glossitis is the term used for inflammation of the tongue. According to research, inflamed and swollen tongue is associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Some of the other oral symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are a sensation of pins and needles in the tongue, mouth ulcers, and burning sensation in the mouth.
• Megaloblastic Anemia: Megaloblastic anemia refers to morphological abnormalities of the hemopoietic cells (immature cells that develop into various type of blood cells), which include abnormally large red blood cell precursors (megaloblasts). Erythropoiesis is a process by which the body produces red blood cells. Vitamin B 12 deficiency results in abnormal nuclear maturation, ineffective erythropoiesis, and a reduction in the rate of biosynthesis, resulting in megaloblastic anemia.
• Impaired Vision: Blurred or disturbed vision is one of the common vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms. When B12 deficiency is not corrected it causes damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for normal functioning of the eyes. This damage disrupts the signals from your eye to the brain, impairing vision. This condition is known as optic neuropathy and can be reversed by taking vitamin B12 supplements.
• Mood Disorders: Low levels of vitamin B12 are associated with brain and mood disorders like dementia and depression. Low level of homocysteine, related to vitamin B12 deficiency, is seen to damage the brain tissue. It also affects the signals to and from the brain, resulting in mood changes. Moreover, supplementing with vitamin b12 in deficient individuals can reverse these symptoms.
• Abnormal Sensations: Nerve damage is the most serious complication associated with vitamin B12 deficiency. Myelin is a protein that protects and insulates the nerves. Vitamin B12 is an important contributor in the metabolic pathway responsible in the production of myelin. In the absence of vitamin B12, myelin is not produced normally, resulting in nervous system disorders. Paresthesia, the sensation of pins and needles, is one of its common signs.
• Mobility Disorders: Nervous system damage caused by vitamin B12 deficiency can alter coordination and balance while walking, increasing the risk of falling. Vitamin B12 deficiency should be suspected as one the cause of fall, especially in the elderly. Preventing and treating vitamin B12 deficiency is seen to improve mobility.
Consuming enough seafood, meat, dairy products, eggs, and poultry is seen to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency. If you are a vegetarian or suffer from a disorder that limits your absorption of nutrients, taking B12 supplement or foods fortified with vitamin B12 can help in preventing the dangers associated with it. However, higher level of vitamin B12 has health risks and you should consult a doctor before taking a supplement of vitamin B12.