Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to vision problems, memory loss, loss of physical coordination and can damage parts of the nervous system, so doing what you can to prevent the condition or catch the condition in its early stages is very important. B12 is best gained through foods, particularly those of an animal origin such as meat, eggs and dairy, which is why people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet may be at risk of deficiency.
It should also be noted certain medical conditions can affect a person’s absorption of B12 from foods, such as pernicious anaemia.
It can be difficult for some people to determine whether they’re getting enough vitamin B12 in their diet, so what symptoms should you be looking out for?
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH), symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can involve the digestive tract, such as abdominal bloating.
It explains: “These symptoms include nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and vomiting, heartburn, abdominal bloating and gas, constipation or diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. An enlarged liver is another symptom.”
But bloating isn’t always a symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Bloating is very common and often occurs after eating certain foods, swallowing too much air or food intolerances.
NIH explains some other signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency to look out for.
It advises: “Vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to nerve damage. This can cause tingling and numbness in your hands and feet, muscle weakness, and loss of reflexes.
“You also may feel unsteady, lose your balance, and have trouble walking.
“Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause weakened bones and may lead to hip fractures.
“Severe vitamin B12 deficiency can cause neurological problems, such as confusion, dementia, depression, and memory loss.”
It adds after symptoms which involve the digestive tract: “A smooth, thick, red tongue also is a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency and pernicious anaemia.
How much vitamin B12 should you be getting a day?
Adults (aged 19 to 64) need about 1.5 microgram a day of vitamin B12, advises the NHS.
If you eat meat, fish or dairy foods, you should be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet.
It adds: “But as vitamin B12 is not found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains, vegans may not get enough of it.”
You should be able to get all the vitamin B12 you need by eating a varied and balanced diet, but some people may choose to take vitamin B12 supplements.
The Department of Health and Social Care advises not to take too many supplements as it could be harmful.
But taking 2mcg or less a day of vitamin B12 in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.