Are you deficient in vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is an essential nutrient for the proper functioning of the body. The elderly and those who do not consume animal products are more prone to deficiency. What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
Cobalamin or vitamin B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells and the proper functioning of the nervous system. This B-group vitamin occurs naturally in animal products: dairy products, meats, fish, and eggs. Therefore, vegan and vegetarian people, as well as those who have reduced their consumption of food of animal origin, are directly exposed to the risk of deficiency. But other populations may also be affected.
Risk of deficiency increases with age
Between 10 and 30% of people over 50 would also be affected by a vitamin B12 deficiency, without even knowing it. In fact, the absorption of this vitamin becomes more difficult with age. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the body to assimilate the recommended 2.4 micrograms each day.
Certain type 2 diabetes medications, as well as acidity regulators, can also interfere with vitamin B12. Weight loss surgery and certain diseases like celiac disease, Crohn's disease, autoimmune diseases, and pernicious (or Biermer's) anemia can block the natural absorption process of vitamin B12.
The main symptoms of a lack of cobalamin
Vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest itself in many ways. General symptoms are associated with all kinds of anemia, such as fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, palpitations, tingling, numbness in the feet and hands, constipation, memory loss, irritability, or mood disorders. It goes without saying that the diagnosis is quite difficult to establish.
In the columns of the Daily Express, dietitian Helen West highlights another symptom: a swollen tongue. This condition also known as glossitis can develop quickly and without warning. It is characterized by a change in the appearance and color of the tongue, which becomes red and painful, and by atrophy of the papillae.
In addition to a swollen tongue, people with a significant vitamin B12 deficiency can also develop mouth ulcers or a "prick" sensation on the tongue. The latter also plays a role in maintaining balance and coordination, people with severe deficiencies may also "have more difficulty walking and moving," says the dietitian.
How to diagnose a deficiency?
When in doubt, the easiest way to detect a deficiency is through a test. Blood tests often give quite vague results. The most reliable test is based on the determination of the concentration of methylmalonic acid (MA) in the urine. Once a doctor reviews the results, supplements or treatments can fill a possible vitamin B12 deficiency. In all cases, it is essential to consult a health professional before taking supplements.