Vitamin B12 is important for many body processes, particularly for red blood cell production and keeping nerves healthy. It’s best gained through diet, but when a person lacks B12, their body won’t make as many red blood cells, will be abnormally large and won’t last for as long as they should. When this happens symptoms can be triggered. It’s important to recognise these so you can receive the correct treatment, because left untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can cause vision problems and loss of physical coordination.
A severe vitamin B12 deficiency damages the nerves throughout the body, which include nerves required for olfaction (sense of smell)
One symptom which could occur in someone with a vitamin B12 deficiency is loss of smell – not being able to smell anything.
A severe vitamin B12 deficiency damages the nerves throughout the body, which include nerves required for olfaction (sense of smell).
As a result, people with severe vitamin b12 may lose or diminish their sense of smell, as well as experience numbness and pins and needles.
A study titled ‘Effect of vitamin B12 deficiency on olfactory function’ demonstrated this.
The researchers concluded: “In this study, we showed for the first time that olfactory dysfunction may be present in patients with vitamin B12 deficiency.”
But the experts added more research would need to be carried out to substantiate this claim.
Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are listed by Bupa as:
- Feeling very tried
- Breathlessness even after little exercise
- Heart palpitations
- A reduced appetite
- A sore mouth and tongue
Making sure you get your daily recommended requirement of vitamin B12 in your diet can stop these health problems from developing. But which foods are the best sources of B12?
Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, offers an “A list” of B12 foods.
The following are included for good dietary saucers of vitamin B12:
- Egg – one large egg contains 0.6mcg of B12
- Low-fat milk – one cup contains 1.2mcg of B12
- Ham – three ounces contains 0.6mcg of B12
- Clams – three ounces contains 84mcg of B12
- Fortified cereal – one cup contains 6mcg of B12
The NHS advises that adults aged 19 to 64 get about 1.5mg a day of vitamin B12.
It explains: “If you eat meat, fish or dairy foods, you should be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet.
“But as vitamin B12 isn’t found naturally in foods as fruit, vegetables and grains, vegans may not get enough of it.”
For vegans, good food sources of vitamin B12 include:
- Nori – one study recommends eating 4g of the dried purple laver to meet the family requirements for vitamin B12
- Shiitake mushroom – you would need to consume around 50g of dried shiitake mushrooms to meet your daily requirements of vitamin B12
- Soy milk – 8 ounces equates to around 3mg of vitamin B12
While you should be able to get all the vitamin B12 you need by eating a varied and balanced diet, some people who don’t get enough may consider taking vitamin B12 supplements.
The Department of Health advises if you take vitamin B12 supplements, not to take too much as this could be harmful.
Taking 2mg or less a day of vitamin B12 in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
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