WHAT IS VITAMIN B12?
Vitamin B12 also known as Cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin that is vital for brain and nerve functioning, converting food into energy and even helps in the production of DNA, our body’s genetic material.
According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, a healthy Australian Adult should ideally consume about 2.4 ug per day, with those that are pregnant or breast feeding requiring a little bit more.
Vitamin B12 naturally occurs in animal products such as eggs, milk, cheese, milk products, meat, fish, shellfish and poultry.
It is for this reason that strict vegetarians and vegans are at higher risk of this deficiency.
Fortunately, fortified “milk” beverages (almond, soy or rice milk) and cereals can be used as a dietary source of B12 for this group and at times can reduce the need for supplementation with oral B12 .
Thirty per-cent of people aged over 50 years don’t effectively absorb B12 , this is due to changes in their gut and a decrease in important gut sections, such as intrinsic factor which is required to absorb B12 .
Fortunately, unlike other B-Vitamins the body can store good amounts of B12 in the liver, which means that deficiencies can often take up to five years to appear.
Alternative causes of B12 deficiencies include gut surgeries (including weight loss surgeries) and those on certain medications such as proton pump inhibitors (used in
reflux) and metformin (commonly used in Diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome).
Symptoms of a B12 deficiency include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Weakness and sluggishness- you might find carrying the groceries or lifting the children more difficult than normal
- Your tongue may appear red and swollen or even experience mouth ulcers
- You may become forgetful and find even the simplest tasks like writing a shopping list more difficult.
- Your skin may look pale or have a slightly yellow shadow instead of a rosy complexion.
- You can experience worsening anxiety or depression.
- High amounts of folic acid (foliate) in the blood can mask the symptoms of a B12 deficiency.
- As a result, an individual with a lengthy B12 deficiency may develop nerve damage without even noticing any symptoms.
- This is why it is important to talk to your pharmacist, dietitian, nurse or doctor before starting any vitamin or mineral supplements.
TREATMENT OF B12 DEFICIENCY
Your doctor should always guide the treatment of B12 deficiency.
Treatment can include a medication review, B 12 tablets, wafers or intramuscular injections depending on the cause and severity of your deficiency.
If you doctor recommends B 12 tablets avoid taking B12 supplements at the same time as any dairy products like milk or cheese.
Excessive B 12 can occur but is very rare as your body is effective at removing any unneeded B 12 in your urine.
Source of B12 (B12 serves in micrograms (ug))
- Milk (250ml) 1.2-1.4
- Swiss Cheese (50g) 1.7
- Feta 0.7-0.9
- Soy Beverages (250ml) 1.0
- Yoghurt (175g) 0.5
- Vegemite (5g) 0.5
- Chicken 0.2-0.3
- Beef 2.4-2.7
- Bacon 0.3-0.4
- Pork (75g) 0.5-0.9
- Tuna (75g) 8.2-9.3
- Salmon (75g) 2.3
- Eggs (2 large) 1.5-1.6
- Almond, oat, rice beverage- fortified (250ml) 1.0