Vitamin B12 plays three major roles in the body. It helps maintain the health of the body’s nerves and blood cells and helps form DNA, the genetic material in all cells.
Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anemia, called megaloblastic anemia, that makes people tired and weak, explained the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Given its significant contribution, it is no wonder that low levels of B12 can cause a range of symptoms.
Harvard Health revealed that vitamin B12 deficiency may be slow to develop, causing symptoms to gradually appear and intensify over time. It can also come relatively quickly.
“Given the range of symptoms a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause, the condition can be overlooked or confused with something else,” she says.
However, there are clusters of symptoms associated with vitamin B12 deficiency:
• A strange sensation, numbness or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet.
A swollen, inflamed tongue.
Difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss.
How do I respond to these symptoms?
You should see a GP if you have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, the British National Health Service says.
“These cases are often diagnosed based on symptoms and blood test results,” explains the NHS.
The NHS warns that “although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some of the problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.”
And strict adherence to a plant-based diet can increase your risk of developing a B12 deficiency.
This vitamin is found naturally in a variety of animal foods, and is added to some fortified foods.
Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on the cause of the condition, but most people can be treated with injections or tablets to replace lost vitamins.
Good sources of vitamin B12 include:
• Salmon and cod.
Milk and other dairy products.
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