The Impact of Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) Deficiency on the Body
Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) is an essential micronutrient that plays a crucial role in maintaining our nerve cells (neurons) and red blood cells. It also helps in the formation of DNA & RNA, which are genetic materials in our body cells. Humans cannot make or produce vitamin B12 themselves, so we need to consume it from external sources such as food, drinks, or vitamin supplements that contain vitamin B12 to meet our body's B12 needs. Vitamin B12 is abundant in animal foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk. People who restrict their food intake, such as vegetarians or people with gut disorders, are more susceptible to B12 deficiency anemia and symptoms due to the lack of this vitamin. Adults require 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12 daily, while pregnant and breastfeeding women's vitamin B12 needs increase to 2.6-2.8 mcg/day. Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur if we do not consume enough vitamin B12 or our body does not absorb the consumed vitamin B12 adequately. Several conditions and diseases can cause vitamin B12 deficiency, such as gastritis, pernicious anemia, gastrointestinal disorders (Crohn's disease and celiac disease), surgery/ gastrointestinal procedures, excessive alcohol consumption, and genetic (transcobalamin II deficiency).
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause physiological, neurological, and psychological disturbances. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can occur gradually and worsen over time. Some people may not show symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency in their bodies. Common symptoms that can occur include fatigue, general weakness, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Neurological symptoms that may arise include numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation in both hands and feet, vision disturbances, difficulty remembering, confusion, and if severe, difficulty walking and speaking. If neurological disturbances have already arisen due to vitamin B12 deficiency, it is possible that they may not be reversible. Psychological symptoms may also appear due to vitamin B12 deficiency, such as depression, irritability, and behavioral changes from normal.
If you experience symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency or have risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency, contact your doctor immediately for a consultation on whether a blood test to measure vitamin B12 levels is necessary. If you have already been diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency and experience disruptive symptoms, see your doctor for a consultation.