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Vitamin B12: Essential for a Healthy Life

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Vitamin B12 is essential for nerve health, DNA production, and red blood cell formation. Discover its role, functions, food sources, and the consequences of deficiency. Learn more about Vitamin B12 in this blog.


Vitamin B12 is often called a cornerstone of health due to its crucial role in energy production, neurological function, DNA synthesis, and heart health. This blog delves into the significance of Vitamin B12, its functions, sources, deficiency risks, and ways to ensure you maintain optimal levels for a healthy life.

What is Vitamin B12? 

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble essential vitamin that plays a vital role in various bodily functions. It is indispensable for producing energy, supporting neurological functions, synthesizing DNA, and improving heart health.

Role of Vitamin B12 in Your Body 

Vitamin B12 helps convert carbohydrates into glucose, providing energy for your body. It supports the nervous system by working with Vitamin B9 (folate), enhances iron function, and aids in the production of healthy red blood cells.

Hydrochloric acid in the stomach separates Vitamin B12 from protein in food, after which it is absorbed by the body with the help of intrinsic factor. Without intrinsic factor, Vitamin B12 absorption fails, potentially leading to pernicious anemia.

Health Complications of Vitamin B12 Deficiency 

Blood Cell Formation 

Vitamin B12 is essential for producing healthy (RBC) red blood cells. A deficiency can result in larger, irregularly shaped red blood cells that cannot move efficiently from the bone marrow to the bloodstream.

Hematological Complications 

  1. Megaloblastic Anemia: Characterized by the presence of large, abnormal red blood cells (megaloblasts) due to impaired DNA synthesis. Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, pallor, and shortness of breath.
  2. Pernicious Anemia: An autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system attacks the stomach's parietal cells, leading to a lack of intrinsic factor, which is essential for the absorption of vitamin B12. This results in severe vitamin B12 deficiency, causing symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and neurological complications.

Neurological Complications 

  1. Peripheral Neuropathy: Damage to the peripheral nerves can cause numbness, tingling, and weakness, typically starting in the hands and feet.
  2. Subacute Combined Degeneration of the Spinal Cord: This severe condition affects the spinal cords myelin, leading to symptoms such as difficulty walking, balance problems, and muscle weakness.
  3. Cognitive Impairment: Deficiency can lead to memory loss, confusion, and even dementia, particularly in older adults.

Cardiovascular Complications 

  1. Elevated Homocysteine Levels: Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to elevated homocysteine levels in the blood, which is a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

Gastrointestinal Complications 

  1. Glossitis and Mouth Ulcers: Inflammation of the tongue and the presence of mouth ulcers are common.
  2. Digestive Issues: Symptoms can include loss of appetite, weight loss, and diarrhea.

Psychiatric Complications 

  1. Depression: There is an association between vitamin B12 deficiency and mood disturbances, including depression.
  2. Psychosis: In severe cases, patients may experience hallucinations and paranoid delusions.

Immune System Complications 

  1. Increased Susceptibility to Infections: A weakened immune system can result from a deficiency, making the body more susceptible to infections.

Pregnancy-Related Complications 

  1. Neural Tube Defects: Inadequate vitamin B12 levels in pregnant women can increase the risk of neural tube defects in the developing fetus.
  2. Preeclampsia: There is a potential link between low B12 levels and an increased risk of preeclampsia.

Food Sources of Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. For vegans and vegetarians, fortified foods like cereals and plant-based milk are good sources. B12 is important for energy and nerve health, so make sure to include these foods in your diet or take a supplement if needed.

Common Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency 

  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Pale or jaundiced skin
  • Heart palpitations and chest pain
  • Difficulty concentrating and memory problems

Risk Factors for Vitamin B12 Deficiency 

  • Dietary Deficiency: Particularly in vegetarians and vegans, since B12 is primarily found in animal products.
  • Malabsorption Disorders: Conditions like pernicious anemia, Crohn's disease, and celiac disease can impair B12 absorption.
  • Age: Older adults are more susceptible due to decreased stomach acid production, which is necessary for B12 absorption.

How to Detect Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Vitamin B12 levels can be checked through a routine blood test, including a complete blood count (CBC) and a specific Vitamin B12 blood test. Levels below 200 pg/ml usually indicate a deficiency. Consult a doctor after receiving your report.

Treatment of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  • Diet Changes: Incorporate more Vitamin B12-rich foods.
  • Supplements: Oral Vitamin B12 supplements, as prescribed by a doctor.
  • Injections: In severe cases, Vitamin B12 injections may be necessary.
  • Consultation: Always consult a doctor for proper treatment.

Consequences of Untreated Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Untreated Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to severe neurological and cognitive issues, including peripheral neuropathy, depression, mood swings, bowel and bladder dysfunction, sexual problems, and delusions.


Vitamin B12 is essential for maintaining overall health. Regular blood tests, including CBC and Vitamin B12 level checks, can help detect deficiencies early. Sterling Accuris Pathology Labs offers various diagnostic tests and health packages at affordable prices, with convenient home collection services. Contact our experts today to book an appointment and ensure your Vitamin B12 levels are optimal for a healthy life.

About Author:

Dr. Kinjal Kotak, MD in Pathology and Head & Consultant Pathologist at Sterling Accuris, Rajkot, brings 12 years of dedicated pathology experience, contributing to the advancement of diagnostic healthcare.

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