Vitamin B12 deficiency: The best food sources of vitamin B12 to avoid deficiency symptoms

Vitamin B12 is responsible for the production of red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, but are unable to do so properly if there are too few of them or if they are abnormally formed. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause red blood cells to become abnormally large, which can disrupt their ability to carry oxygen. In some cases, vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by not getting enough B12 in your diet, so it’s important to ensure you eat the right foods to get adequate amounts.

Good sources of vitamin B12 include meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs and some fortified breakfast cereals.

According to the NHS, adults need around 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day, which should be easily obtained by eating meat, fish and dairy.

But people who don’t eat these foods, such as vegetarians and vegans, may not get enough and therefore become deficient.

Vitamin B12 can be found in some veggie foods, however, such as breakfast cereals fortified with vitamin B12, yeast extract like Marmite and some soy products.

“Check the nutrition labels while food shopping to see how much vitamin B12 different foods contain,” said the NHS.

According to the NHS, stores of vitamin B12 in the body can last for around two to four years without being replenished, so it can take a long time for any problems to develop after a dietary change.

If vitamin B12 deficiency is diet-related, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals.

Once vitamin B12 levels have returned to normal and your diet has improved, you may be advised to stop taking the tablets.

But people who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets may need to take tablets for life.

The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency, however, is pernicious anaemia, an autoimmune condition affecting the stomach.

Pernicious anaemia causes the immune system to attack the cells in the stomach, so they are unable to absorb vitamin B12.

For people with a vitamin B12 deficiency related to pernicious anaemia or other non diet-related causes, eating more B12-rich foods won’t help.

Instead, the condition will usually be treated with injections of vitamin B12. At first these will be administered every other day for two weeks or until symptoms have started improving.

After this, injections may be needed every months for the rest of your life.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include a pale, yellow tinge to the skin, a sore and red tongue, mouth ulcers, and pins and needles.

Other symptoms include disturbed vision, irritability, depression, and a decline in mental abilities.


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