Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that is essential to help optimize conversion of food into energy needed by the body to utilize numerous physiologic processes such as respiration, blood circulation, and immune system response. Vitamin B12 also helps maintain healthy nerve cells in the body and is needed by the red blood cells for the formation and production of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA).
This vitamin can be found in different kinds of foods such as fish, shellfish, meat and daily products. It is stored in the body for several years, thus deficiency of Vitamin B12 is rare. It may be rare, but it still affects hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. Factors that may predispose one to Vitamin B12 deficiency are age, diet and loss of the protein called intrinsic factor.
Old people are at risk of deficiency and so are strict vegetarians since vitamin B12 is seen less in vegetables. The loss of intrinsic factor by the intestines is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency since this protein aids in the absorption of Vitamin B12.
Megaloblastic anemia may result from a deficiency in Vitamin B12. This is a type of anemia in which there is a malformation of the red blood cells. These red blood cells are found to be larger than normal and the ratio of the nucleus is way too increased than that of the cell cytoplasm. One main cause is alcohol abuse, wherein alcohol intake depletes the Vitamin B12 in the body. Symptoms include change in skin color, diarrhea and headache.
Vitamin B12 deficiency has also been connected with neurological and psychiatric problems. Patients with this deficiency may display muscle weakness, visual problems, incontinence, hypotension or the lowering of blood pressure, psychosis, dementia and mood disturbances.
Learn more about Vitamin B12 deficiency here.