People at Risk of B12 Deficiency

People at Risk of B12 Deficiency

B12 deficiency is a very common disorder, but it’s not one that is often recognized.  There is no red flag for B12 deficiency that can be looked at to immediately identify it – in fact, most symptoms of B12 deficiency can be caused by other medical conditions, so B12 deficiency is often not even considered as a culprit and the symptoms are blamed on a different complication.

Who is Most at Risk?

Many of the symptoms of B12 deficiency also mimic problems that people associate with growing older, so B12 deficiency is mistakenly thought to be a problem for old people.  While it is believed that people over age 40 have an elevated risk for suffering from lack of B12, there are many other factors that can influence your body and impact your ability to acquire B12, no matter what the age.

Dietary Risks

One of the largest deciding factors is diet.  B12 is produced only in animals, and thus only found in animal products.  Plants don’t need it, so plants don’t bother to produce it.  This makes it so that people who avoid eating animal products – whether for health or moral reasons – are diminishing their B12 intake severely.  Vegans and vegetarians are at a high risk.  Additionally, a pregnant woman following such a diet runs a high risk of the B12 deficiency affecting the growing fetus, and children who breastfeed from deficient mothers are also unlikely to achieve adequate levels of B12.

This does not mean you cannot have a vegan or vegetarian diet.  However, if you do follow such a diet, it is very important that you supplement your B12 intake using pills or injections.  The longer a B12 deficiency has been present, the more damaging it can be on your body and mind – simply changing your diet to include an adequate intake is not enough.  You need to intake much more than usual to restore depleted levels of B12, and the longer B12 has been low, the more you will need to combat it.

Intestinal Risks

Despite being so important, the human body can have difficulty absorbing B12 from food.  Compared to other essential vitamins, absorption rates for B12 are very low, and even a diet that you think contains an adequate amount may not be providing enough to meet your body’s demands.  When food is eaten, it only stays in the digestive system so long before it moves on, so your body has to race to pull out as much B12 from it as it possibly can in that short amount of time.

This leads to more complications if you have any conditions that lower your body’s ability to absorb nutrition.  Pernicious anemia, atrophic gastritis, Crohn’s disease, enteritis, and celiac disease are just some examples of conditions that reduce your body’s efficiency in absorbing B12.  Luckily, there are ways around low absorption rates – namely, vitamin B12 injections.

Because B12 injections bypass the digestive system entirely, their potency is not reduced by poor absorption or any gastrointestinal issues that may prevent proper breakdown of B12.  If you eat a diet that contains B12-rich foods but still find yourself suffering from symptoms of B12, then you may be suffering from low absorption, and injections could aid in treating the problem.