As someone gets older, they might fall more often, need a cane to walk, or get a little more forgetful. But what if in some cases - those things weren't actually due to 'old age' - but a vitamin deficiency, that was treatable!
Vitamin B12 is important for energy, mood, memory, focus and metabolism of fats and amino acids. A deficiency can cause anemia, memory and focus issues, a sluggish metabolism, and nerve damage. But in severe cases that are left to progress, vitamin B12 deficiency can even lead to death.
The thing about B12 deficiency - is it is often missed or misdiagnosed as other conditions like Parkinson's, MS, or dementia. Because it often happens to the elderly, the symptoms can simply be attributed to 'old age'. But B12 deficiency does not just affect the elderly population, it can even affect babies and young children, and it can mimic the symptoms of autism and ADHD. Let me share a story - a couple years ago, a young girl mentioned to me that she was getting tingling and numbness in her arm. I asked her if she had seen a doctor about it. She told me yes, but that the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong with her. She said they eventually pulled her parents aside and told them that she was "making it up, or just saying it to get attention." I was stunned. That is not something a child would make up! Neurological symptoms should never be ignored or dismissed. I mentioned B12 deficiency to her mom, and guess what? They tested her and she was deficient. She is doing well now on B12 supplements. In fact, if she stops the supplements, the tingling and numbness comes back. But what if she hadn't gotten tested or supplements? The sad thing is, there are many people in a similar situation - who are being misdiagnosed or told it is "in their heads" every day.
Signs of B12 Deficiency
A deficiency in B12 can cause neurological issues, fatigue, dementia, depression and other mental illnesses - even psychosis. It is linked to anemia, infertility, autistic symptoms, learning and motor delays, elevated homocysteine, clumsiness, frequent falls, and so much more. B12 deficiency is often misdiagnosed as MS, Parkinsons, dementia, and more. If left untreated, severe B12 deficiencies can even lead to death. It can take years before symptoms of a B12 deficiency show up.
Who is at Risk?
Because B12 is only available in animal products, vegans and people who eat very little animal proteins are one of the higher risk populations for deficiency. People with inadequate levels of stomach acid, digestive issues, or who have had gastric or intestinal surgery are also higher risk for deficiencies. People who have genetic mutations which limit their bodies ability to convert B12 to the active form can be deficient, as well as those with autoimmune conditions like pernicious anemia.
The Form of B12 Matters.
If you are currently taking a B12 supplement in your multivitamin - go take a look and see what form it is. Is it cyanocobalamin? That is one of the most common and cheapest forms - so that is why many multivitamin companies use it. But conversion of B12 in the body is not a simple mechanism, and some people are not able to convert cyanocobalamin into the useable form (such as anyone with a genetic MTHFR mutation). So the optimal forms of B12 for absorption and bioavailability are methylcobalamin, adenosylcobalamin, or hydroxycobalamin.
Some people with digestion/ absorption problems, low stomach acid, on metformin, or who have very low B12 levels - will benefit from B12 injections, a sublingual, or a liquid form of B12.
The B vitamins work together synergistically, so it is a good idea when supplementing B12 to also take a full B complex supplement, or a multi with the B complex vitamins.
Curious if B12 deficiency could be affecting you or a loved one? Get tested!
You want to ask for a Serum B12 and a urinary MMA. Other tests to consider are homocysteine, serum iron, and ferritin. Find the complete list of tests to consider in the book Could it Be B12? Also, find more information and a complete list of symptoms on this site: B12Awareness.org.
*Note: if you are already supplementing with B12, realize that your test results may not accurately reflect a deficiency. So if you are not supplementing and suspect a deficiency - try to get tested right away, before beginning to supplement.
Read more: Inexpensive Vitamin Treats ‘So Many Diseases’ It Threatens Big Pharma
Note: Tingling and numbness in extremities can also be a sign of diabetes, but it is important to rule out a B12 deficiency as well.