Although Vitamin B12 deficiency is not as frequent as those related to other Vitamins, it is indeed dangerous! Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential vitamin your body needs for healthy functioning and growth.
It dissolves easily in water and is one of the eight water-soluble B vitamins. Its structure consists of a corrin ring with cobalt in the center of the ring held by four coordination bonds with the nitrogen of the pyrrole groups.
They are naturally found in meat and foods from animal sources and play an essential role in maintaining the body’s overall metabolism.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) refers to the healthy amount of vitamin B12 our body needs for adequate performance, i.e., 2.4 mcg/day. The amount increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding, i.e., 2.6 mcg and 2.8 mcg, respectively.
Importance of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 has many important roles in our body. It plays a vital role in synthesizing DNA and forming red blood cells.
It helps balance homocysteine levels in the blood by acting as a coenzyme in the remethylation of homocysteine to methionine, a crucial step in the synthesis of folate.
Vitamin B12 also plays a role in the isomerization of methylmalonyl coenzyme A(CoA) to succinyl CoA, a key substrate in hemoglobin synthesis. It aids in the proper functioning of the brain and the growth of nervous tissue.
Causes of vitamin B12 deficiency
B12 deficiency occurs either due to inadequate intake of the vitamin in the diet or when our body is unable to absorb the vitamin properly.
- People, especially vegetarians who don’t eat any animal products like meat, cheese, eggs, fish, etc., are more likely to be vitamin B12 deficient.
- Pernicious anemia is the leading cause of Vitamin B12 deficiency. It is an autoimmune disorder that attacks your body’s healthy cells. Vitamin B12 combines with the intrinsic factor in your stomach, and this combination is then absorbed in the distal ileum of the body. In pernicious anemia, the parietal cells of your stomach that produce intrinsic factors are attacked by the body’s immune system, which prevents sufficient absorption of vitamin B12.
- Some surgical procedures like gastrectomy, where a portion of your stomach is removed, increase your risk of developing Vitamin B12 deficiency. Other risk factors include conditions that affect your small intestine, like Crohn’s disease, which causes inflammation of the lining of your digestive tract.
- Certain medicines can also interfere with the absorption of Vitamin B12, leading to its deficiency. For example, Diabetics who are treated with metformin may face Vitamin B12 deficiency because metformin reduces its absorption. Similarly, Proton Pump Inhibitors(PPI) like esomeprazole (Nexium), omeprazole (Prilosec OTC), and lansoprazole (Prevacid) inhibit the formation of stomach acid, which helps release Vitamin B12 from the food you intake.
Consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to megaloblastic anemia due to the impairment of normal red blood cell production that supplies oxygen to various body parts.
Without adequate oxygen supply, our body cannot work properly. Vitamin B12 deficiency results in the accumulation of the methylated form of tetrahydrofolate because the utilization of the N5 Methyl form of THF is impaired in the B12-dependent methylation of homocysteine to methionine.
As a result, the THF forms needed for purine and de novo synthesis of thymidylic acid depletes, giving rise to the symptoms of megaloblastic anemia.
The symptoms include paleness, weakness, nausea, weight loss, diarrhea, pain, glossitis, uncontrollable muscle movement, difficulty walking, shortness of breath, faster heartbeat, etc.
Ways to combat vitamin B12 deficiency
Taking IV vitamins
IV therapy is the easiest, fastest, and most effective method of administering various essential vitamins, like vitamin B12, needed by our body, directly into the bloodstream. It provides an instantaneous way to combat Vitamin B12 deficiency and relieve symptoms of megaloblastic anemia by boosting up your body’s immune system. It bypasses all the possible absorption barriers in the stomach or intestine, making it the safest method available. It has gained popularity among people as the best possible treatment option for being easily accessible and accurate with the dosage.
Improving your diet
You can treat vitamin B12 deficiency by adjusting your diet and ensuring the intake of food items rich in vitamin B12. It is primarily found in food derived from animal sources. Vitamin B12 can be derived from liver, red meat, fish, chicken, cheese, yogurt, milk, eggs, etc.
Taking oral vitamins is another way to overcome Vitamin B12 deficiency. Cyanocobalamin is the most commonly used form in supplements. It provides a potentially cheaper alternative than parenteral administration. High doses of 1-2 mg/daily have proved to be effective in raising vitamin B12 levels in the blood, compensating for the poor absorption of the vitamin by the body. However, oral supplements tend to take longer to work than IV injections which provide immediate onset of action.
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