What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in numerous bodily functions. It is involved in DNA production, the formation of red blood cells, and the proper functioning of nerve cells. Insufficient levels of vitamin B12 can result in megaloblastic anemia, causing fatigue and weakness.
This important vitamin can be obtained from various dietary sources, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, nutritional yeast, and certain fortified foods. In animal-based foods, vitamin B12 binds to protein molecules, which are later separated from it by stomach acid during digestion. The absorption of vitamin B12 into the bloodstream is facilitated by a substance called intrinsic factor.
In cases where individuals have a condition called autoimmune atrophic gastritis, their bodies may not produce enough stomach acid or intrinsic factor. For these individuals, vitamin B12 shots are often necessary to prevent deficiency and the development of pernicious anemia.
Furthermore, individuals who have undergone gastrointestinal surgery and have a reduced ability to absorb vitamin B12 efficiently may also require vitamin B12 shots to maintain adequate levels in their bodies.
Who Might Benefit from Vitamin B12 Injections?
If a client is deficient in vitamin B12, they may benefit from receiving an injection. One specific deficiency is megaloblastic anemia, characterized by a macrocytic anemia that causes the production of unusually large red blood cells in the bone marrow. While most individuals obtain sufficient amounts of this vitamin through their diet, a deficiency is prevalent in up to 43% of older adults (4).
Insufficient levels of vitamin B12 can lead to various symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness, confusion, and personality changes.
According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals at the highest risk of low vitamin B12 levels include (5):
Those who do not consume enough vitamin B12 through their diet.
Individuals diagnosed with pernicious anemia.
People who have undergone gastric surgeries.
Individuals with intestinal issues like celiac or Crohn's disease.
Vegetarians, in particular, face a heightened risk of deficiency due to the primary presence of vitamin B12 in animal-based foods. Research indicates that this is especially crucial for pregnant or lactating women, as it ensures the adequate supply of this vital vitamin to the developing baby (6).
Clients concerned about their B12 levels can consult their doctor, who can perform a blood test to determine the presence of a deficiency. It is essential for clients to always seek guidance from their doctors before attempting new supplements or making dietary changes.
People with symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
If anyone experiences signs and symptoms such as difficulty thinking and remembering, fatigue, heart palpitations, pale skin, weight loss, infertility, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, dementia, mood changes, a sore tongue, low appetite, or constipation, it is advisable to consult a doctor as these could be indicative of a vitamin B12 deficiency or pernicious anemia