Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when your blood levels of vitamin B12 drop to an unhealthy low. If you have vitamin B12 deficiency for an extended period, then you are risk for pernicious anemia. Today, experts believe that vitamin B12 deficiency is an overlooked epidemic striking millions of US citizens.
How common is B12 deficiency?
In 2000, the United States Department of Agriculture stated that nearly two-fifths of all US citizens had some form of vitamin B12 deficiency. Their source of information was the Framingham Offspring Study, which found vitamin B12 deficiency in nearly 40% of 3,000 Framingham, Massachusetts residents between the ages of 26 and 83.
“I think there is a lot of undetected vitamin B12 deficiency out there,” said study author Katherine Tucker.
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Today, reports indicate that close to 47 million Americans suffer from middle-low to nearly depleted levels of vitamin B12.
So why do government reports such as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey claim that the prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency among Americans is much lower- closer to 3% with severely low levels, and 20% with borderline B12 anemia?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is often misdiagnosed and ignored by doctors for many reasons:
First, we’ve been led to believe that pernicious anemia is no longer a fatal or even detrimental disease, so it has essentially fallen off the radar. Many doctors no longer test for vitamin B12 deficiency in their patients, because they believe that it is a non-issue.
Second, standards for detecting vitamin B12 deficiency are remarkably low and inefficient. Serum vitamin B12 screenings only look for lethally-low levels of vitamin B12, which occur only in a rare percentage of people with pernicious anemia. Middle-low ranges of vitamin B12 depletion that nevertheless cause debilitating symptoms are often ignored.
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Finally, even people with “normal” levels of vitamin B12 in their system may exhibit symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, as the blood screenings don’t separate active vitamin B12 from stored vitamin B12. This is an important yet overlooked distinction, as only active molecules of vitamin B12 are able to carry out the biochemical functions necessary for survival.
B12 deficiency in vegetarians
According to a recent report on vitamin B12 deficiency among vegetarians, vegans are at a higher risk for developing anemia from low vitamin B12 levels compared with vegetarians, and people who follow a vegetarian diet from birth are more at risk than those who made a change to their diet in adulthood.
In the scientific study conducted by the Department of Nutrition Science, the risk for vitamin B12 deficiency among vegetarians is as follows:
- Pregnant women- 62%
- Children- 25-86%
- Teens- 21-41%
- Elderly 11-90%
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Signs of B12 deficiency
Some of the early signs of vitamin B12 deficiency are often mistaken for chronic depression, anxiety, or age-related dementia. Since vitamin B12 is needed for maintaining myelin, some of the symptoms of low vitamin B12 mimic those of multiple sclerosis.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 include:
- Constant fatigue
- Memory loss
- Brain fog
- Poor concentration
- Decreased motor control
- “Pins and needles” in hands and feet
- Muscle spasms, twitches
- Sleep disturbances
- Sore, burning red tongue
Do you currently get prescriptions for vitamin B12 shots ? If so, do you feel that you don’t get enough to prevent symptoms between doses?
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