Vitamin B12 is an essential micronutrient for human health. However, it is a vitamin that can be incorporated into the organism through the consumption of foods of animal origin, such as different types of meat, eggs, fish or dairy products.
In this sense, it should be noted that the organism needs different vitamins and minerals daily in order to function properly and prevent the onset of diseases or various health conditions.
Thus, the organism needs a specific dose of vitamin B12 per day to prevent deficiency of this micronutrient. For this reason, the National Institute of Health of the United States has elaborated a guide with the sufficient amount that our body requires on a daily basis, depending on age and sex:
Infants up to 6 months of age
Infants 7 to 12 months of age
Children 1 to 3 years of age
Children 4 to 8 years of age
Children 9 to 13 years of age
Adolescents 14 to 18 years of age
Pregnant women and adolescents
Nursing women and adolescents
However, there are many people who are deficient in vitamin B12, which can lead to serious health problems. The lack of this micronutrient can be caused by different factors.
Lack of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when the organism does not get enough of this micronutrient or is not able to absorb the vitamin necessary for the proper functioning of the different structures.
Mainly, deficiency of this micronutrient may be due to dietary habits. For example, people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and do not consume meat can develop a lack of vitamin B12 if there is poor planning.
In another order, the deficit of this vitamin can also be due to a bad absorption on the part of the organism. In order for the body to absorb this vitamin correctly, a complex process must take place.
As a first step, the hydrochloric acid in the stomach separates the vitamin B12 from the protein in which it is present in the food. Subsequently, the vitamin B12 combines with a protein produced by the stomach called ‘intrinsic factor’ which helps the vitamin to be absorbed.
Some people find it difficult to produce intrinsic factor and this is reflected in poor absorption of vitamin B12 from food or vitamin supplements. This is a common occurrence in people with pernicious anemia.
Diseases related to vitamin B12 deficiency
Lack of vitamin B12 is directly reflected in various symptoms such as tiredness, weakness, loss of appetite or constipation. If these conditions persist over time, it is advisable to consult a medical specialist.
On the other hand, a deficiency of this vitamin can manifest itself in neurological problems, loss of balance, confusion, dementia, poor memory. It can also cause damage to the nervous system.
However, the main problem with a lack of vitamin B12 in the body is that it can cause a type of anemia called ‘megaloblastic’. This type of anemia is characterized by the production of large and unhealthy red blood cells.
Mainly, the occurrence of megaloblastic anemia is caused by malabsorption of vitamin B12 in the organism. Thus, these are the most common symptoms of this disease:
Pallor of the skin.
One of the main treatments for megaloblastic anemia is to increase the intake of vitamin B12 in the organism. Even in extreme situations, this vitamin can be given by injection.