In our last blog, we saw that vitamin B12 deficiency is very common among Asian Indians. But, rarely do we realize that the general neurological symptoms such as extreme tiredness, depression, etc is due to this vitamin deficiency.
Vitamin B12 (also known as cobalamine or cyanocobalamine) has very important functions in the body:
- Production of healthy Red Blood Cells (RBC’s) to prevent anemia
- Proper functioning of central nervous system to maintain alertness and memory
- Required for DNA (genetic code) synthesis
Because of its vital role at systemic level, symptoms of deficiency of this vitamin are more generalized and may be overlapping with other disease conditions. However, involvement of psychiatric symptoms as in poor memory, loss of concentration, mood swings and generalized weakness are some of the peculiar symptoms that can be indicative of poor Vitamin B12 status.
Other symptoms of deficiency
Forgetfulness, weakness, Itchy tongue, skin pigmentation, pain in the palms, sores at corner of mouth, migraine, and facial pain are few of the common symptoms. Severe B12 deficiency can cause symptoms including mental dullness, chronic psychosis, coma, and even death.
What are the normal B12 levels in Indians?
|Blood levels (pg/mL)||Status|
|220-350||Intermediate / borderline deficient|
Dietary sources of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is naturally present in animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products but it is absent in plant food sources. Foods that are contaminated with bacteria also contain B12. Dietary sources are not rich enough to overcome a severe deficiency of this vitamin, in which case supplements or intravenous injections are required.
In our next blog, understand who is at higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.