Dangerous Vitamin B12 Deficiency – You should watch out for these symptoms

  • Svenja Wallocha

    VonSvenja Wallocha


Vitamin B12 is important for our body. A possible deficiency is dangerous and often only becomes evident years later – you should pay attention to these symptoms.

Frankfurt – The human body needs a variety of vitamins, minerals and trace elements to function. – This includes vitamin B12. It is involved in a variety of bodily functions. Those who follow a varied diet are generally well supplied with this vitamin. But even in Germany, some people can suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency. Who is at high risk of deficiency, how a vitamin B12 deficiency manifests itself, and what those affected can do about it: an overview.

The term vitamin B12 does not refer to a single vitamin, but to a whole group of compounds with the same effect – the so-called cobalamin. They are essential for the body. According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), they help in the formation of blood and new genetic material (DNA), but also in cell division and the breakdown of some fatty acids. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can impair these processes, which can sometimes have serious health consequences.

Vitamin B12: intake occurs through foods of animal origin

The symptoms and causes of a vitamin B12 deficiency can be very different. If you notice a deficiency, you should first take a closer look at your eating habits. Since our body cannot produce B12 on its own, it can only absorb and use it through foods of animal origin.

It is mainly stored in the liver. Good suppliers are meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, according to a report by Apotheken Umschau. But seafood also provides vitamin B12. Traces of the vitamin are also found in plant products such as sauerkraut.

Vitamin B12 deficiency: Those affected usually feel tired and exhausted. (icon image)

© Ute Grabowsky / Imago

Vitamin B12: There are a few things to consider, especially on a vegan diet

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) provides an estimated value for an adequate vitamin B12 intake. This is 4.0 micrograms per day for young people aged 13 and over and for adults. For classification: Approximately 100 grams of mountain cheese contain approximately 0.81 micrograms of B12. The vitamin B12 content is particularly high in meat or fish, for example. Salmon has 2 to 3 micrograms per 100 grams. But who is actually at high risk of deficiency?

A vitamin B12 deficiency is quite rare because the body tends to be over-supplied from the Western diet. However, there are some groups that are at higher risk for malnutrition. Especially with a vegan diet, vitamin B12 is more important. Because those who follow a vegan diet completely without animal food and therefore without vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency: There are these risk groups

According to the DGE, it is not possible to meet the need for this vital vitamin with food of plant origin alone. However, there are many vitamin B12 supplements that people on a vegan diet can take long-term after consulting a doctor. Vitamin B-12 is also often added to some vegan foods.

Group (from 15 years) Alter Vitamin B12 micrograms (µg) / day
baby 0 to less than 4 months \ t 0.5
from 4 to less than 12 months \ t 1.4
more kind From 1 to less than 4 years \ t 1.5
from 4 to less than 7 years \ t 2.0
7 to less than 10 years \ t 2.5
From 10 to less than 13 years \ t 3.5
from 13 to less than 15 years \ t 4.0
teenagers and adults From 15 to 65 years 4.0
pregnant women 4.5
breastfeeding 5.5
(Source: OK)

Certain stomach ailments and intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease and gastritis can also make it difficult for vitamin B12 to be absorbed. Drugs that prevent stomach acid from forming can also lead to a long-term deficiency. “Older people over the age of 65 are more likely to suffer from a deficiency,” says Apotheken Umschau. Risk groups also include pregnant and breastfeeding women who need a little more vitamin B12 than normal. But what are the typical symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency?

How does vitamin B12 deficiency manifest itself? Look out for the following symptoms

A vitamin B12 deficiency sometimes becomes evident only after years. “There are reserves of B12 in the body that provide us with the vitamin for years even if we don’t actually eat enough,” explains nutritionist and book author Prof. Hans Konrad Biesalski in an article by quark.de. But when he does, the health effects can be severe relatively quickly.

People with chronic deficiency often feel weak and exhausted, along with pale skin, symptoms similar to those of iron deficiency. Fatigue and exhaustion with a vitamin B12 deficiency are partly due to anemia, because not enough blood cells can be formed without vitamin B12. Mental disorders can also be the result of a deficit, such as poor memory, fatigue, attention problems, but also neurological abnormalities. However, the symptoms are very different and can vary depending on the person and the deficiency.

Symptoms that may indicate vitamin B12 deficiency:

  • anemia and paleness
  • fatigue
  • poor memory
  • tingle
  • burning tongue
  • numbness
  • confusion
  • Gangunsicherheit

A deficiency should be investigated and treated quickly enough. Because in the worst case, the symptoms of severely affected people can no longer be completely reversed. For people who suspect they are suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency, it is important to have them examined immediately by a specialist. This also applies to other deficiency symptoms, such as magnesium deficiency or calcium deficiency.

In the event of a vitamin B12 deficiency, the AOK health insurance company recommends “clarifying the vitamin B12 level in a blood test using laboratory diagnostics.” Dietary supplements, on the other hand, should not simply be suspected, but should be discussed with a doctor beforehand and accompanied by therapy. (svw)

The information provided in this article is not a substitute for a visit to a doctor. Only experts can make the right diagnosis and initiate adequate therapy. Taking medications or dietary supplements should be discussed with a doctor beforehand.

Title list image: © Ute Grabowsky / Imago

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