Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms may occur if a person is lacking the vitamin from the foods they’re eating. Certain groups of people stand risk of being deficient in the vitamin, including vegans and vegetarians and those with certain medical conditions. Vegans and vegetarians can be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency because the main sources of B12 are from foods of an animal origin. And medical conditions, such as pernicious anaemia, can affect a person’s absorption of B12 from foods.
Vitamin B12 is used in the production of red blood cells and helps keep nerves healthy, so a lack of B12 can result in a lower blood count and can increase the risk of nerves becoming damaged.
If vitamin B12 deficiency is left untreated, the complications that can occur include lost of coordination, as a result of nerve damage, and heart problems, including heart failure.
Spotting the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can help you prevent complications, and one to be wary of is bad breath.
About 10 per cent of all bad breath cases are causes by conditions outside the mouth, according to the Mayo Clinic.
In the case of vitamin B12 deficiency, bad breath can occur because the number of enzymes which help with digestion decrease in the blood.
This increases the amount of waste in blood, which can lead to bad breath.
Dr Craig Maxwell, from the Integrative Medical Center in the US, explained to the medical centre: “Poor diet can contribute to the development of the gastrointestinal and oral health problems that cause bad breath.
“A diet based primarily on junk food may also contribute to nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, can cause bad breath.
“The best natural cure, in this case, is a wholesome, nutrient-rich diet of organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, wild-caught fish, eggs, and healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, and olive oil.”
The link between vitamin B12 deficiency and bad breath appeared in an article in the Journal of Breath Research.
A team of researchers from Metabolic Solutions Inc. and the University of Florida found a speciality molecular test can detect one of the more “dangerous” causes of bad breath – vitamin B12 deficiency.
Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
Other symptoms of the condition are listed by Bupa as:
- Feeling very tired
- Breathlessness even after little exercise
- Heart palpitations
- A reduced appetite
- A sore mouth and tongue
The health organisation adds: “If you have vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, you may also look pale or jaundiced (have a yellowy tinge to your skin and the whites of your eyes).
“As well as the symptoms of anaemia, vitamin B12-deficiency may cause symptoms related to your nerves. This is called vitamin B12 neuropathy. It may affect your movement and sensation, especially in your legs, cause numbness or pins and needles and decrease your sensitivity to touch, vibration or pain. It can also cause confusion, depression, poor concentration and forgetfulness.
“These symptoms aren’t always due to vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, but if you have them see your GP.”
Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency
If a person isn’t getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet they may be advised by a GP to eat more foods fortified with vitamin B12 or to take regular supplements.
Vitamin B12 injections may also be recommended, and for those with pernicious anaemia, injections may be required for the rest of their lives.
Experts say adults aged 19 to 64 require around 1.5 micrograms a day of vitamin B12, and unless you have pernicious anaemia, you should be able to get this through your diet.
If vitamin B12 deficiency is triggered by not including enough B12 foods in the diet, Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, offers the “A list of B12 foods” on its website.