Vitamin B12 deficiency and its consequences
A vitamin B12 deficiency damages the body in the long run. We take in the vital vitamin primarily with animal foods. If the amount ingested is not sufficient, the body's B12 storages empty up: the deficiency manifests itself in very different symptoms. Learn all about the causes and symptoms of the deficiency and how to prevent it.
B12, also cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that your body needs for numerous metabolic processes. B12 enables, for example
According to the
of the German Nutrition Society (DGE), healthy people aged 15 and over should take sround 4.0 micrograms (µg) of B12 daily. Pregnant and lactating women have a higher need, which is at 4.5 µg and 5.5 µg.
A deficiency arises when
A vitamin B12 deficiency can have very different causes, including:
Because the body can't produce vitamin B12 itself, we have to take it in with food. B12 is mainly found in meat and fish, but also in eggs and dairy products, but in much smaller quantities. Especially vegetarians and vegans don't get enough of the classic B12 sources.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding or under persistently high stress, you need significantly more vitamin B12. You should adjust your diet accordingly or use appropriate preparations.
Because vitamin B12 enters the body through the gastrointestinal tract, chronic and acute diseases of the gastrointestinal tract restrict B12 supply. Your body can't absorb enough vitamin B12, for example in diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease, gastritis, celiac disease or pernicious anemia, which destroys the stomach lining
In old age, several factors can promote a B12 deficiency.
Certain groups of people are particularly vulnerable to a lack of B12. These are:
The symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency often only appear after a few years, because a healthy person can store cobalamin in the liver for up to three years. The shortage only becomes noticeable when the reserves are used up. At first, the symptoms are rather inconspicuous and very diverse. They do not always lead to the correct conclusion straight away.
These signs can indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency:
The following symptoms also often occur:
A temporary vitamin B12 deficiency is not life-threatening if it is diagnosed early. The doctor can determine the deficiency in different tests, including:
If you suspect a vitamin B12 deficiency, a blood test is recommended first. The value of the cobalamin in the blood is determined. Even if this value is still just within the normal range, you can't rule out a B12 deficiency, especially if you are a senior citizen.
Then the Holo-TC (Holo-Transcobalamin) test is recommended. It is a version of the B12 that transports the nutrient from your blood into the cells. A blood test has shown sufficient cobalamin, but that alone is not yet meaningful enough./p>
A good option is also a urine test. Your morning urine will be examined for methylmalonic acid. If this value is too high, this indicates a vitamin B12 deficiency.
The best way to treat or prevent a B12 deficiency is to eat consciously: Above all, animal foods provide B12. The richest B12 sources are
You can already consume around 4.5 µg B12 with a lean piece of cooked beef (100 g), which is even more than the daily requirement for an adult. A portion of cooked salmon (70 g) contains around 2.9 µg B12 and forms a good basis. For vegetarian diets, choose dairy products: two servings (60 g) of Camembert (30% fat in dry matter) offer around 1.9 µg B12. A portion (100 g) of mozzarella (20% fat in part) comes to 2.0 µg B12.
As a vegan, it is much harder to reach the recommended daily value because there are hardly any vegan sources of vitamin B12. Foods that still contain traces of the vitamin include mushrooms, various types of algae, unpeeled and unwashed root vegetables (carrots, beetroot) and fermented vegetables (such as sauerkraut).
Alternatively or additionally, food supplements with B vitamins or folic acid promote a balanced vitamin balance, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Because you can't always prevent a B12 deficiency through the food consumed. Do not wait until the deficiency shows up with the first symptoms. You can act preventively with B12 preparations, which are available in various dosage forms:
The latter only comes into consideration in the case of severe absorption disorders for B12. They have a storage effect, which is why four injections per year can be sufficient. Taking tablets and capsules is easier.
The dosage depends on the reason for the treatment: If there is a deficiency, you need a larger B12 dose than for the prevention of a deficiency. If you want to replenish your body's storage due to a deficiency, you should consume about 1000 µg per day for three to six months, alternatively 5000 µg for a period of four weeks. The recommended daily dose for stabilizing your B12 level is between 10 and 1000 µg.
You don't have to worry about an overdose because your body excretes any excess, for example via the kidneys. Therefore, you don't have to expect unwanted side effects, even when taking high-dose preparations.
Vitamin B12 is an essential and water-soluble vitamin that fulfils many important functions in the body. This includes the support in the production of red blood cells, as well as in the development and function of the nervous system. Vitamin B12 is ingested through food; vitamin B12 is only present in food of animal origin. Vegans and vegetarians are therefore particularly at risk of suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency. This also applies to older people, as the ability to absorb and utilise vitamin B12 from food decreases with age.