Why you should get your vitamin B12 levels checked

Deficiency could cause problems ranging from fatigue to dementia

Vitamin D has received a lot of press the past couple of years, but it’s not the only nutrient you should be monitoring in your body. Another important one is B12, which helps to make red blood cells and DNA.

Insufficient amounts of B12 can cause a host of problems, from fatigue to dementia, studies have shown.

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Dr. Eduardo Villamor, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan, told Insider that recent research has found higher rates of cognitive decline in older people with both a vitamin B12 deficiency and an excess with either folic acid or vitamin B9.

He added that although research has suggested vitamin B12 might help with depression and dementia, more research was needed on how vitamin B12 affects neurological behavior.

“There is substantial interest on the role of vitamin B12 on neurocognitive performance, especially in the elderly,” Villamor said. “The role of vitamin B12 on fetal, infant and child neurodevelopment is also an important area of research.”

The nutrient affects your body in other ways, however. Because B12 reacts with compounds to produce DNA and energy, a mild deficiency can make you feel tired.

Do you have cracks or sores around your mouth? It could be because your body needs more B12. Those cracks could be caused by anemia, which happens your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to sufficiently distribue healthy read blood cells. This moderate deficiency might also cause tingling or numbness in your hands and feet.

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If your B12 deficiency is severe, Villamor said it could cause “serious neurological and psychiatric manifestations.” Symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Impaired cognition
  • Depression
  • Psychosis
  • Dementia

Your body doesn’t produce B12, so you have to consume it. The only natural sources of the vitamin are animal products — meat and eggs — so vegans and those in areas where animal foods can be expensive need to be especially vigilant.

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