There are many causes of Vitamin B12 deficiency – autoimmune conditions, inadequate dietary intake (common in vegans and vegetarians) and inability to absorb B12 from food sources. B12 deficiency is one of the most common causes of anemia (a lack of healthy red blood cells).
Vitamin B12 deficiency is easily treated with Vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin or hydroxycobalamin) injections or vitamin supplements. Diagnosing Vitamin B12 deficiency is done by a simple blood test and the following questions can help you decide if you should have your B12 levels tested.
If you answered “yes” to 6 or more of the questions above, you should have your B12 levels tested to determine if you have a Vitamin B12 deficiency, and assess the severity of the deficiency.
The impact of a Vitamin B12 deficiency on health is significant. Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to decreased production of red blood cells in the blood. Healthy amounts of red blood cells are required for the delivery of oxygen to all the cells and tissues in the body. Deficiency can affect normal growth and development, production and health of nerves, skin, hair, genes and normal metabolism.
Folate deficiency can also be associated with Vitamin B12 deficiency and can cause similar symptoms. Folate deficiency is less common due to the fortification of many foods with folate. However, folate deficiency is associated with neural tube defects and all women of childbearing age should be assessed for potential folate defiency and take a supplement if indicated.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
British Columbia Medical Association. B12 Deficiency – Investigation and Management of Vitamin B12 and Folate Deficiency. Victoria, Canada: Guidelines and Protocols Advisory Committee; 2007.
First Consult: Megaloblastic Anemia www.mdconsult.com
Rakel: Textbook of Family Medicine, 7th Ed. 2007. Common Laboratory Testing.