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Do you have a vitamin B12 deficiency?

Vitamin B12

(NaturalNews) While vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiencies are often associated with a vegan or vegetarian diet, today's meat eaters are not risk-free either. In the U.S., an estimated 47 million people are B12 deficient, and most of them don't even know it, as the symptoms can go unnoticed for years.

Every single cell in the body relies on vitamin B12. It is crucial to the nervous system, and plays a significant role in the creation of DNA, RNA and red blood cells, among various other functions such as regulating mood and digestion.

Despite its importance in the body, vitamin B12 deficiencies are easily overlooked or confused with other conditions. Often the symptoms are seen as a direct result of our busy and over-stressed lifestyles. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, balance problems, yellow skin, swollen tongue, anemia, and memory and attention difficulties.

As reported by Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause severe neurological problems and blood diseases if left untreated.

Who is in the danger zone?

While some people don't consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, others can't absorb enough, no matter how many animal products they consume. Let's take a look at who's at risk.

Vegetarians and vegans

Contrary to what many vegans and vegetarians claim, plant foods don't contain B12 – or at least the B12 humans can use. Algae (such as chlorella and spirulina) and plants provide what they call B12 analogs or false B12. These analogs block the intake of real vitamin B12, interfering with the absorption of useful B12 and increasing the need for this vital nutrient.

The good news is that there is no need to abandon your diet preferences or moral choices, since B12 supplements are among the safest supplements out there. B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning that it is nearly impossible to over-supplement and reach toxic levels in the body. The body takes what it needs, and any excess is eliminated through the kidneys.

People over the age of 50

As we age, our bodies produce less stomach acid, which decreases the ability to absorb B12. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that an estimated 3.2 percent of adults over the age of 50 have a severely low B12 level, and up to 20 percent may have a borderline deficiency. However, other sources note that the B12 epidemic may be even worse, affecting about 50 percent of older Americans.

Individuals who regularly consume alcohol

People who often drink alcohol, even in moderation, are also at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Alcohol may damage the stomach lining, which can lead to decreased absorption of B12 from the gastrointestinal tract.

Furthermore, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism noted that alcoholism changes the way in which many nutrients – including B12 – are transported and stored in the body, as well as how they are excreted.

People with acid reflux

Commonly prescribed acid reflux drugs reduce the acid production in the stomach. Stomach acid is needed to absorb vitamin B12, hence the deficiency risk in people taking these heartburn medications.

Other digestive conditions that mess up vitamin B12 absorption are celiac disease and Crohn's disease.


Lastly, people diagnosed with diabetes or disorders such as lupus or Hashimoto's are more likely to struggle with absorption issues and will probably need to supplement with B12.

As you can see, even if you are a meat eater, some conditions or lifestyle factors may be draining your vitamin B12 levels. If you are feeling awful or exhausted all the time, it may be time to check your levels, as long-term B12 deficiencies may lead to heart issues, depression, anxiety, as well as symptoms of mental illness, Alzheimer's or autism.

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