Modern nutritional research offers much more information about which nutrients are required for optimal health than in years past. The general opinion of most health care providers has been that patients should eat a balanced diet in order to make sure their nutritional needs are being met. Until the past few decades this was good advice, but the nutrients contained in most foods sold in grocery stores has been depleted, due to the way they were grown and processed. This means the nutrients most important to the proper functioning of the human body are best ingested through supplementation. Those who have a deficiency of vitamin B12 may be experiencing some serious health problems that they are not even aware of.
Food Sources of Vitamin B12
Food products that come from animals are the only sources of the vitamin, so someone who follows a vegetarian or vegan diet would most likely need to supplement B12. It is also good to supplement if one has a diet that restricts the consumption of meat, dairy, eggs because of the relatively high levels of cholesterol and fat.
Health Problems Caused by a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Some of these health issues are easily mistaken as symptoms of other diseases, such as diabetes. Others may be confused with common aging problems.
- Tingling and/or numbness in the extremities
- Memory loss and cognitive difficulties
- Difficulty in walking, because of staggering or balance problems
Health care providers may not be able to identify these problems as a deficiency of Vitamin B12, so a blood test may be needed, in order to reach a correct diagnosis. There are a few other less common symptoms that indicate a deficiency of the vitamin.
- Paranoia and hallucinations
- Jaundiced skin
- An inflamed and swollen tongue
Many people are not very well educated about their nutritional needs and the problems they may experience from various deficiencies. Most people have too much stress in their lives and struggle to find enough time in the day to get everything done. People often naturally think whatever fatigue or weakness they feel is the result of not enough time and rest, but symptoms could well be due to a Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Although seniors are most at risk for nutritional deficiencies due to dietary restrictions, a depressed appetite and medications, younger women also experience anemia due to monthly menstruation. The average person is often surprised how much better they feel once they begin a regime of Vitamin B12 supplementation. It is important to note that not all B12 supplements are the same, so if adding the vitamin to a diet it would be wise to research all the options available. One common B12 supplement actually contains arsenic and should be avoided.
Since the best source of B12 is found in foods, eating more meat, eggs, dairy and especially poultry is a good choice. Poultry is relatively low in fat and cholesterol, so it is safer for those who are at risk for heart disease.