The impact of vitamin B12 on the body is extensive. The list includes helping to produce red blood cells, maintaining a healthy nervous system, and normal psychological function. Therefore, low levels of B12 can give the body a hammer blow and some problems can be irreversible.
According to the NHS, a lack of vitamin B12 can cause neurological problems that affect the nervous system.
«If neurological problems develop, they may be irreversible,» the NHS warns.
Neurological problems include:
- Eye sight problems
- Memory loss
- Pins and needles (paresthesia)
- Loss of physical coordination (ataxia), which can affect the whole body and cause difficulty speaking or walking
- Damage to parts of the nervous system (peripheral neuropathy), particularly in the legs.
Some of the most acute problems are neuropsychiatric.
A case study documenting a male patient with a two-month history of delirium was published in the journal Hindawi.
A 53-year-old male patient, without any known illness, was brought to the emergency room by his wife and daughter due to decreased oral intake for three days.
Decreased oral intake was associated with vomiting. The patient was in normal health until two months prior to his visit, when he began to develop changes in his behavior.
According to his wife, the patient became more aggressive, had reduced sleep, stopped going to work, and isolated himself.
He also had hallucinations and episodes of short-term memory loss.
The above symptoms were accompanied by generalized body weakness, mainly in the lower limbs. Body weakness was associated with pain; the patient remained in a wheelchair.
During the last two months, the patient visited many doctors, but a definitive diagnosis was not determined.
Upon further examination, the male patient was found to be deficient in vitamin B12.
His initial course of antipsychotic medication was «no improvement.»
However, the patient had a «remarkable» response to vitamin B12 replacement, and all antipsychotic medications were discontinued, the case study states.
Are you at risk?
Holland and Barrett explain: «Vitamin B12 is only found naturally in animal products such as meat and dairy, so vegans and vegetarians are at risk of low intake.»
The richest sources of B12 are from animal sources, including:
- meat and liver
- milk and milk products
According to Holland and Barrett, older people and others who don’t produce enough stomach acid to absorb B12 properly may also be at risk of deficiency.
Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on the cause of the condition. Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace missing vitamins.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
«Initially, you will receive these injections every other day for two weeks or until your symptoms have started to improve,» explains the NHS.
The health body adds: «Your GP or nurse will give you the injections.»