It’s time you stock up on vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency is quite common among adolescents in India. The body uses this vitamin to produce healthy red blood cells in the bone marrow and keep the nervous system healthy. Low levels of B12 can cause several problems including anaemia.

Causes
Autoimmune diseases, gastric bypass surgery and inflammation of the stomach are also reasons for non-absorption of B12 by the body. People, who drink excess alcohol, also have problems with absorption of the vitamin due to a weakened stomach lining.

Vitamin B12 is found in eggs, meat, fish and dairy products. People, who consume less or none of these foods, like vegans and vegetarians, are at a higher risk of B12 deficiency. 

Complications
The problems caused by this deficiency include tiredness, fatigue, lack of energy, sore tongue and mouth ulcers. It can also lead to diarrhoea, fever and lack of focus. Palpitations, shortness of breath, poor appetite and weight loss are other issues caused by vitamin B12 deficiency.

Pregnancy
In pregnant women, B12 is as important as folic acid, because it could have a serious impact on the foetus. There are risks including neural tube defects, intrauterine growth retardation, pre-eclampsia and early miscarriage. Mothers who are deficient in B12, pass on lesser amounts of the nutrient to their babies during breast milk. Although rare, it causes slow development, twitches, and tremors in the babies.

Regular blood tests for B12 levels are highly recommended and if the person suffers excess tiredness, fatigue or regular mouth ulcers it is best to consult a doctor to confirm if it is a deficiency of B12.

(The author is obstetrician & gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals)

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It’s time you stock up on vitamin B12

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