In Brazil, research shows that vitamin B12 deficiency is not a problem that affects few people. To give you an idea, according to data from the POF (Research of Family Budgets) 2017-2018, 7.2% of adult men in the country have insufficient vitamin B12 consumption, while it reaches 17.1% in adult women.
The latest National Child Food and Nutrition Study of 2019 shows a 14.2% prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in children under the age of five. For older people between 65 and 74 years this is around 5%. This is more than 10% for people over 75.
Next, understand how low levels of this vitamin affect various functions of the body.
Vitamin B12: What Is It For? food and more
What is vitamin B12 for in the human body?
the vitamin B12also known as cobalamin, is directly involved in the production of DNA and RNA, and in the formation of blood cells and neurons, which are very important for the maintenance of the myelin sheath – the structure that conducts electrical impulses and integrates communication between neurons.
Therefore, it is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous and cardiovascular system, as well as for improving physical and mental health. It also acts on the metabolism of fats and generates energy for the body.
What are the foods richest in vitamin B12?
Originally vitamin B12 it is present in the bacteria that exist in the soil that release the nutrient when broken down by the digestion of herbivorous animals that consume them along with the roots and pasture. Therefore, we obtain this nutrient indirectly through foods of animal origin (meat, eggs, milk and dairy products).
Discover the best sources of vitamins B12 and the amount in 100 g, according to the Brazilian food composition table:
- Beef liver – 72.2 mcg
- Chicken liver – 18.9 mcg
- Seafood – 12 mcg
- Tuna – 8.19 mcg
- Chicken heart – 7.57 mcg
- Sardine -7.32 mcg
- Oysters – 3.63 mcg
- Crab – 3.91 mcg
- Salmon – 3.13 mcg
- Meat – 2.53 mcg
- Boiled egg – 1 mcg
- Yogurt – 0.29 mcg
- Milk – 0.37 mcg
Who Can Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
The lack of this micronutrient can be mainly caused by the low consumption of foods of animal origin, which are the main sources of this nutrient. Therefore, vegetarians and vegans should rely on supplementation, in addition to periodic blood tests to monitor their blood levels.
But the deficiency can also occur due to a deficiency in the absorption process of the vitamin through the digestive system, as it relies on the intrinsic factor present in the stomach for this to happen properly.
This is the case in elderly patients who suffer from some atrophy of the gastric mucosa due to aging and in patients taking antibiotics and antacids – drugs that hinder the production of intrinsic factor and, consequently, the absorption process.
Other people prone to vitamin deficiency B12 are those who suffer from some sort of chronic illness such as diabetes.
HIV-positive patients suffering from the disease in the active form (AIDS) also have difficulty absorbing nutrients and may have low levels. As well as those with inflammatory bowel diseases such as: Crohn’s or celiac disease, which cause frequent diarrhea and mucosal changes. People who have had bariatric surgery may also have the deficiency.
What are the effects of a lack of vitamin B12 on the body?
the vitamin deficiency B12 can lead to a condition called megaloblastic anemia, where the formation of giant (defective) red blood cells is seen. When the problem stems from a lack of absorption by the body and not from low consumption, it is called pernicious anemia.
Therefore, low levels of the nutrient affect the transport of oxygen to the body’s cells, causing fatigue, fatigue and discouragement. They also affect the neurological part and, if left for several years, chronic vitamin deficiencies B12 can cause neurological damage such as memory impairment, cognitive impairment, dementia and depressive disorders.
To be usual still the appearance from canker sores, tingling, cramps, burning tongue, as well as abdominal pain, hair loss, loss of appetite and changes in bowel function, with periods of constipation and other diarrhea.
Some studies even show a link between vitamin deficiencies B12 with a greater risk of stroke (cerebrovascular accident), precisely because the lack of the nutrient increases the risk of neuropathies and cardiovascular diseases.:
But it’s not alone. an analysis of Journal of Bone and Mineral Research concluded that the lack of this micronutrient may be an important risk factor for osteoporosis, as it affects bone formation.
In children, low vitamin levels B12 affect growth, in addition to increasing the risk of cardiovascular and neurological problems, with irreversible cognitive damage as their brains are developing. Nutrient-deficient pregnant women may have babies with neurological problems, according to a study published in ‘s journal pediatrics†
What Tests Investigate Vitamin B12 Levels?
the vitamin exam B12 Serum, which is measured in the blood, is a good marker to find out the levels of this nutrient in the body. Also contributing to the evaluation are the dosages of homocysteine and the acid methylmalonbecause her levels increase when she is deficient.
How does vitamin B12 supplementation work?
In general, supplementation is done through the intake of vitamin capsules or tablets. B12what can be sublingual are absorbed by the oral mucosa. there are still the spray nasal and the injectable (intramuscular) form, which effectively restore nutritional stores, especially in people with absorption problems in the gastrointestinal tract.
Who Should Supplement Vitamin B12?
In general, any patient undergoing blood tests with low levels of the vitamin B12 is aimed at supplementation, as long as it is recommended by a doctor or nutritionist. Hence the importance of people on restrictive diets or radical changes in their diets to periodically monitor this nutrient – in the case of vegetarians and vegans.
Women with the intention of becoming pregnant and those who are already pregnant should also be advised to supplement the vitamin B12† This is because inadequate levels of the nutrient during pregnancy have been linked to cases of malformations of the baby’s nervous system, with irreversible cognitive damage.
Patients suffering from depression may also benefit from supplementation, according to research published in: The Open Neurology Journal† The analysis involved patients consuming the vitamin B12 with antidepressants and had significant improvement in symptoms.
Correct vitamin content B12also contributes for the amelioration of neuropathies such as loss of sensitivity of the lower extremities.
What does a very high vitamin B12 level mean?
Because it is water soluble, vitamin B12 is eliminated through urine and feces, so when levels appear high in the body, they could indicate a sign of serious illness, according to an article published in the journal Elsevier†
Among them are haematological conditions such as some types of leukemias and liver diseases (acute hepatitis, cirrhosis, hepatocellular and metastatic liver disease).
How much vitamin B12 should be taken per day?
According to recommendations from Institute of medicine, vitamin consumption B12 by adults is 2.4 micrograms. Pregnant women should consume 2.6 mcg and lactating women, 2.8 mcg per day. In children, this value varies according to age:
- From 0 to 6 months old: 0.4 mcg
- From 7 to 12 months: 0.5 mcg
- From 1 to 3 years: 0.9 mcg
- 4 to 8 years: 1.2 mcg
- From 9 to 13 years: 1.8 mcg
- From 14 years: 2.4 mcg
It is important to emphasize that these levels must be reached through food. Only a doctor or nutritionist can recommend supplementation.
Can Vitamin B12 Supplementation Cause Side Effects?
In general, there are no major side effects of vitamin supplementation. B12as it is water soluble and mainly excreted in the urine.
But supplementation by intramuscular injection can cause acne on the skin, although the relationship with this factor is not yet clear, in addition to allergic reactions (itchy skin, urticaria, bronchospasm and angioedema), diarrhoea, dizziness, nausea and hypokalemia (low blood potassium).
Are there any contraindications to supplementation?
the complement of B12 it is contraindicated when the individual has an allergy (or hypersensitivity) to cobalamin or cobalt, which is present in its molecule. Nor should they supplement those who have Leberwho already has high cobalamin levels because of the condition.
Patients with kidney problems should only take supplementation under the guidance of a doctor or nutritionist, as excess is excreted by the kidneys.
Does vitamin B12 make you fat?
There are no vitamins or minerals that have calories, so they are unable to lift weight. What makes you fat is the consumption of excess calories from a diet rich in fat and carbohydrates, which are macronutrients.
Does Vitamin B12 Help You Lose Weight?
It can be said that maintaining good vitamins B12 contributes for the functioning of metabolism, including the use of fats as energy, as the nutrient interferes with the action of an enzyme responsible for the process of beta oxidation† However, there’s no evidence in studies that people with low levels of the nutrient are more likely to gain weight or have trouble losing it.
So the best way to lose weight to be continued being the combination of a healthy diet with energy restriction and practicing physical exercises to generate a calorie deficit.
Source: Cinthia Roman Monteiro, professor of nutrition course at Centro Universitário São Camilo (SP); Renata de Oliveira Campos, nutritionist and PhD in interactive processes of organs and systems by UFBA (Federal University of Bahia), who works as a professor of nutrition at UFRB (Federal University of Recôncavo da Bahia); Cynthia Antonaccio, Master in Human Nutrition from USP (University of São Paulo) and CEO of Equilibrium Latam