2016-11-01 / OnCall

To B12 or not to B12

Amanda Olson, DO

Q: I’ve heard so many different things about vitamin B12: that it’s hard for vegetarians to get enough, that you can have too much of it, that deficiency causes anemia. What is the truth about B12?

A: Vitamin B12 helps to keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy. It can be found naturally in foods such as beef liver, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and other dairy products and some food products, such as cereals, that are fortified with vitamin B12.

Most people get enough vitamin B12 through the foods they eat. However, some people have trouble absorbing vitamin B12:

  • People who don’t have enough hydrochloric acid in their stomachs, such as those who use medications for acid reflux long term
  • People with pernicious anemia whose bodies don’t make intrinsic factor, which is needed to absorb vitamin B12
  • People who have had gastrointestinal surgery such as weight loss surgery or who have digestive disorders such as Crohn’s Disease
  • Strict vegans who do not eat animal
  • products

Some signs and symptoms of vitamin B12
deficiencies include:

  • Fatigue, shortness of breath or paleness due to low blood counts
  • Sensory changes such as numbness of the hands or feet caused by the depletion of myelin, a protective covering of the nerves
  • Difficulty walking and memory problems as vitamin B12 deficiency may cause harm to brain cells and nervous system

Vitamin B12 is found in most multi-vitamins. People who have been diagnosed with a vitamin B12 deficiency are commonly treated with either high dose oral vitamin B12 or vitamin B12 injections.
Since vitamin B12 is water soluble, it has not been shown to cause any harm even if you get too much of it through the foods you eat or vitamins you take.

Amanda Olson, DO
Internal Medicine
Geisinger Bellefonte

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