Mom sure knew what she was talking about when she made sure you took your vitamin every day. Unfortunately, you may have left that habit at the breakfast table since growing up. A recent study showed that a shocking 25 percent of American adults are deficient in a very important vitamin. Are you? Keep reading to find out how you might actually be putting your life in danger by being deficient.
A recent study from US Framingham indicated that one in every four adults in the US is deficient in Vitamin B12, which is known as the energy vitamin. Vitamin B12 can help with energy production, formation of blood, myelin formation and DNA synthesis.
You can get vitamin B12 from animal sources, such as beef, lamb, snapper, venison, salmon, poultry, eggs and scallops. A strict vegetarian diet or vegan diet can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency that can lead to blindness and brain abnormalities. In some areas of the world that are strict vegetarian cultures, such as India, 80 percent of the adults are vitamin B12 deficient.
The Health Connection
Vitamin B12 is very important for your health. It is used to promote a healthy nervous system function, proper digestion and fat metabolism as well as iron use, normal nerve growth development, a healthy immune system, cell formation, longevity, hormone production, well being, mental clarity, physical energy, female reproductive health, concentration and memory function. Vitamin B12 allows the nerve endings to communicate with one another. If the level of Vitamin B12 in the blood is all depleted, it can lead to a host of medical problems, some of them life threatening.
Needless to say, vitamin B12 provides the body with what it needs to remain healthy overall. Some symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are memory problems, fogginess when it comes to mental abilities, mood swings, apathetic feelings, muscle weakness, tingling in the extremities, fatigue and total lack of energy.
If you feel that you might be deficient when it comes to Vitamin B12, you should have your blood levels checked. If you are in fact deficient, you need to take the proper steps to be sure that you bring your levels up to the right amount of vitamin B12.
Conditions such as the following are greatly impacted by vitamin B12 levels:
Depression is one of the medical problems associated with a lack of vitamin B12. Depression is thought to be linked to low monoamines in the central nervous system and vitamin B12 is responsible for helping the body make these compounds. High levels of homocysteine, also caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency can also led to depression.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
A lack of vitamin B12 can lead to dementia in elderly people. This is a reversible condition that can be improved by getting more vitamin B12 in the system. Alzheimer’s disease, however, differs from dementia in that it is not reversible and involves brain shrinkage. A study of seniors indicated that those who were vitamin B12 deficient suffered more from brain atrophy, or shrinkage of the brain.
Anyone who is vitamin B12 deficient can have a condition called pernicious anemia. This means that there is a lack of healthy red blood cells in the body. If left untreated, pernicious anemia can up your risk for heart attacks and strokes. It can even make changes to your digestive tract, increasing a risk for stomach cancer.
Insomnia and Sleep Problems
Because vitamin B12 plays an important role when it comes to melatonin production in the body, a lack of vitamin B12 can cause sleep problems. Lack of sleep in itself can lead to a whole other host of health conditions.
Muscle weakness and headaches can also be part of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Migraine headaches, as well as Parkinson’s disease are both neurological conditions that can be caused by a lack of vitamin B12. In addition, a lack of vitamin B12 has been linked to certain psychiatric disorders. Another serious condition that can result from a lack of vitamin B12 is blindness. This is due to a deterioration of the optical nerves and is not reversible.
Heart Attacks and Strokes
Studies indicate that a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to heart attack and stroke. This is because the lack of vitamin B12 increases the homocysteine levels in the blood and ups your risk of suffering from a heart attack or a stroke.
Because Vitamin B12 has such an important role when it comes to DNA synthesis, low levels can cause DNA damage. Cervical cancers and breast cancers are linked to low levels of vitamin B12.
Fertility, Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
In addition to its implication in the aforementioned diseases and conditions, low levels of Vitamin B12 can also play a role in fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding. Women who do not have adequate levels of vitamin B12 in their blood increase their risk of having babies with birth defects. Spinal Bifida is a common defect that is caused by low levels of vitamin B12.
Women who are planning a pregnancy should make sure that they have adequate levels of vitamin B12 in their bloodstream before conception as low levels of this vitamin are also linked to miscarriages and infertility.
Additionally, if a woman has a diet that does not include enough vitamin B12 and is breast feeding, the baby can develop brain abnormalities based on lack of B12.
The Risk Factors of vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiencies do not just occur because of a lack of eating animal products. There are other reasons why someone can become vitamin B12 deficient. These include being over the age of 50, using anti-ulcer medications or antacids, using Metformin, use of medications to treat cancer, Parkinson’s and gout, birth control pills, cholesterol lowering drugs, antibiotics and anti-convulsants.
Coffee drinkers also experience more of a reduction in their levels of Vitamin B12 as compared to those who do not drink coffee. Bacterial infections, weight loss surgery and exposure to nitrous oxide can also lower the levels of vitamin B 12 in the blood.
What You Can Do
Treatment for a deficiency in Vitamin B12 can include and IV or shots of the vitamin, as well as a change in diet. Taking supplements of vitamin B12 is recommended for anyone who is a vegetarian or vegan, is over 50, takes antacids, takes prescription drugs and suffers from mental fogginess. Taking supplements can be an effective way to make sure that your body gets the amount of vitamin B12 it needs to function while allowing you to have a healthier life. So, don’t skimp on the B12!