You might not think of B12 when you think about nutritional deficiencies. Don’t feel guilty; most people don’t give B12 much thought, but they should. B12 deficiency can pose a serious health risk and should be treated seriously.
What Does B12 Do for Your Body?
B12 is one of the most important nutrients you can consume as it is responsible for producing red blood cells and DNA. Unfortunately, your body cannot produce B12 on its own, therefore you must obtain it from your diet. Because your body cannot store B12 for long, you must consume it on a daily basis.
Weakness/Fatigue: The most common symptoms of a B12 deficiency are weakness and fatigue and they are likely the first you’ll notice. Unfortunately, because these are such generic symptoms, they are frequently misdiagnosed. Since B12 is required for the creation of red blood cells, a B12 deficiency increases the risk of low red blood cell counts and thus less oxygen being circulated throughout the body, causing fatigue.
Tingly Skin/Pins and Needles: Nerve damage is a serious issue for people with untreated B12 deficiencies. When your nerves begin to break down due to a loss in myelin (the substance that surrounds nerves), you will experience a tingling sensation similar to pins and needles.
Vitamin B12: What to Know.” WebMD, WebMD,
Dizziness: B12 deficiency increases the risk of anemia, which can lead to dizziness. This, like weakness and fatigue, is caused by low counts of red blood cells, which are required to efficiently transport oxygen to your body.
Abnormal Vision: If you experience blurry vision and your contacts are not past their expiration date, you should have your B12 levels checked. Low B12 levels can cause damage to the nervous system, ultimately harming your optic nerves. This condition, known as optic neuropathy, is often reversible with B12 supplementation.
Mood Swings: If you’re not generally moody, but your emotions have been swinging back and forth lately, it could be an indication of a B12 deficiency. Low B12 levels have been linked to depression. According to the homocysteine theory of depression, this occurs when low B12 levels trigger the production of homocysteine, which interferes with brain signals and causes depression. In some studies, mood changes have been reversed through the use of B12 supplements.
B12 Foods to Keep You Healthy
Because B12 is not naturally produced in our bodies, it’s imperative that we obtain it from our diet. The best sources of dietary B12 come from animal-based products like eggs, meat, poultry, and seafood. There are a few meat alternatives, including soy burgers, that are fortified with B12. B12 is also found in almond, oat, and rice beverages, nutritional yeast, and dietary supplements like Activ B12. Vegetarians and vegans should take a daily supplement as they are more susceptible to B12 deficiencies owing to a lack of B12 in their diets. Supplements are also a good idea in general, since 10-30% of adults cannot properly absorb B12 from food.
Do you think you may have a vitamin B12 deficiency?
B12 deficiency can induce fatigue, depression, cognitive issues, and prickly skin, among other symptoms. Many symptoms associated with low B12 levels are not exclusive to a B12 deficiency, which can lead to an untreated condition.
Chavala, S H, et al. “Optic neuropathy in vitamin B12 deficiency.” European journal of internal medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2005,
West, Helen. “9 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 7 Oct. 2017
If you have any signs of a deficiency, see a healthcare practitioner for testing and treatment. If and when a B12 deficiency is diagnosed, healthcare professionals usually treat it with supplements like Activ B12 or B12 injections.