Vitamin B12 is one of the body’s essential nutrients: The body’s red blood cells, nerves and DNA rely on adequate B12 absorption | CraigDailyPress.com

Vitamin B12 is one of the body’s essential nutrients: The body’s red blood cells, nerves and DNA rely on adequate B12 absorption

By Lauren Glendenning/Brought to you by Memorial Regional Health

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin helps keep the body's nerves and blood cells healthy, but some people are at risk of not getting enough of it.

Those most prone to a B12 deficiency are vegetarians and vegans, according to the Mayo Clinic. Plant foods do not contain B12, and a deficiency can lead to anemia, fatigue, muscle weakness, intestinal problems, nerve damage and mood disturbances.

Memorial Regional Health is offering $20 lab tests that check levels of this important vitamin during its March into Health event this month. The reduced cost lab work is available for walk-ins from 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday and by appointments on weekends. Lab results can be discussed with an MRH medical team member at the MRH Community Health Fair on April 14.

The Harvard Medical School reports that good candidates for B12 lab work include those older than age 50, vegetarians or vegans, anyone who has had weight-loss surgery or conditions that interfere with food absorption and those who take proton-pump inhibitors (Nexium or Prevacid) or H2 blockers (Pepcid or Zantac), or metformin, a diabetes drug.

Older adults who don't have enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach to absorb B12 might also face a deficiency in B12, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. And, those who have had gastrointestinal surgery or digestive disorders might not be able to absorb as much B12 through diet alone.

"Vitamin B12 deficiency causes tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss and megaloblastic anemia. Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur," according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. "Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory and soreness of the mouth or tongue. Vitamin B12 deficiency can damage the nervous system, even in people who don't have anemia, so it is important to treat a deficiency as soon as possible."

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While most people do absorb enough Vitamin B12 through diet alone, the risk should be taken seriously for those older than 50 or those who meet any the other risk factors mentioned above. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2 percent of adults older than age 50 have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20 percent may have a borderline deficiency. The average adult should get about 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day. The Institute of Medicine recommends anyone older than age of 50 get extra B12 through a supplement, such as a standard multivitamin.

Since the body needs B12 to make red blood cells, nerves and DNA, as well as to perform other functions, it's important to get a lab test done to see if you should be taking supplements of this important vitamin.

Call MRH at 970-826-3122 to schedule a lab appointment or for more information about March into Health.

What foods provide vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following.

• Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12.

• Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12.

• Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.

*Source: National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements.