Who Is at Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
An estimated 6% of people in the US and UK aged 60 or older have vitamin B12 deficiency, while about 20% have low to normal or borderline deficient levels
Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in one of two ways. Either your diet lacks adequate amounts of it or your body is unable to fully absorb it from foods you eat.
Those at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Older adults
- People with gastrointestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease
- Those who have had gastrointestinal surgeries, such as bariatric surgery or bowel resection surgery
- People on a strict vegan diet
- Those who take metformin for blood sugar control
- Those taking proton pump inhibitors for chronic heartburn
In many older adults, the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach is reduced, causing a reduction in the absorption of vitamin B12.
If your body has difficulty absorbing vitamin B12, your doctor may recommend intramuscular injections of b12 to increase your levels.
Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products
Even though some plant-based milks or grains may have been fortified with vitamin B12, vegan diets are often limited in this vitamin, putting people at risk of deficiency.
If you eat a healthy, varied diet, preventing a vitamin B12 deficiency should be easy. However, if you think that you might be at risk, speak to your doctor.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can most often be prevented or resolved with oral or intramuscular injections.
Risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency include a decreased ability to absorb this vitamin due to low hydrochloric acid secretion, certain medications or gastrointestinal disease and surgeries. Vegans are also at risk since B12 is only found in animal products.
1. Helps With Red Blood Cell Formation and Anemia Prevention
Vitamin B12 is involved in red blood cell formation. When vitamin B12 levels are too low, the production of red blood cells is altered, causing megaloblastic anemia.
2. May Prevent Major Birth Defects
Appropriate vitamin B12 levels are key to a healthy pregnancy. They’re important for the prevention of brain and spinal cord birth defects.
3. May Support Bone Health and Prevent Osteoporosis
Vitamin B12 may play a vital role in your bone health. Low blood levels of this vitamin have been associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis.
4. May Reduce Your Risk of Macular Degeneration
Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B12 decreases homocysteine levels in your blood. This may help prevent the development of age-related macular degeneration.
5. May Improve Mood and Symptoms of Depression
Vitamin B12 is needed for the production of serotonin, a chemical responsible for regulating mood. Vitamin B12 supplements may help improve mood in people with an existing deficiency.
6. May Benefit Your Brain by Preventing the Loss of Neurons
Vitamin B12 may help prevent brain atrophy and memory loss. More research is needed to conclude if supplementing with this vitamin can improve memory in those without a deficiency.
7. May Give You an Energy Boost
Vitamin B12 is involved in energy production in your body. Taking a supplement may improve your energy level, but only if you’re deficient in this vitamin.
8. May Improve Heart Health by Decreasing Homocysteine
Vitamin B12 can decrease blood homocysteine, a type of amino acid that is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. However, research does not currently support the claim that vitamin B12 reduces this risk.
9. Supports Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails
Healthy vitamin B12 levels are important for your hair, skin and nails. However, taking a supplement probably won’t improve your health in these areas if your levels are already sufficient.
The Bottom Line
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that you must obtain through diet or supplements.
It’s responsible for many bodily functions and may benefit your health in various ways, such as by preventing major birth defects, supporting bone health, improving mood and maintaining healthy skin and hair.
Getting enough vitamin B12 through your diet is crucial. However, if you struggle to obtain enough or have a condition that affects absorption, supplements are a simple way to increase your B12 intake.