vitamin b12 rich food

Vitamin B 12 Deficiency: Risks, Symptoms and Remedies

Vitamin B12 Deficiency can Cause Havoc in Your Body

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient and its deficiency can cause health problems. It is naturally available in some foods and it can also be taken as dietary supplement.

Vitamin B12 is required for blood cell formation, DNA synthesis and proper neurological functioning. It contains the mineral Cobalt, which is why sometimes it is also referred to as cobalamin.

Vitamin B12 is mostly available in animal foods that is why vegetarians generally have vitamin B12 deficiency. They have to depend on vitamin B12 supplements otherwise they will face anemia and other health problems. It is also available in Milk products though in small quantities.

The vitamin B12 deficiency is very hard to detect. If you are facing chronic fatigue, mood disorders and chronic stress then you may be suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency.

Initial diagnosis done based on serum B12 levels can indicate vitamin B12 deficiency. Unfortunately even if your serum B12 levels are within the normal limits even then you may still be suffering from B12 deficiency. That is the limitation if the screening serum level testing.


This means that if your serum levels of vitamin B12 are low then you certainly have vitamin B12 deficiency. If the levels are normal even then you may still have vitamin B12 deficiency. So if you are symptoms are still indicating the deficiency but the serum levels don't, then you should go for more sophisticated screening test for vitamin B12 deficiency. The secondary level screening test for vitamin B12 deficiency will clearly establish whether you have it or not.

Vitamin B12 deficiency cannot be taken lightly as it can cause some Irreversible and potentially serious health damages particular to your brain and nervous system.

Who is at Risk on Vitamin B12 Deficiency

There are 2 things that can put you at the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.

One is that you are not consuming foods that provide enough vitamin B12. Vegans and vegetarians fall under this category because plant based foods do not have enough cobalamin to meet daily needs.

The second category of the people who may have vitamin B12 deficiency are those whose metabolic system does not allow cobalamin absorption.

People with an autoimmune disease such as Pernicious anaemia may develop vitamin B12 deficiency as the stomach does not absorb vitamin B12 in such people.

If your small intestine is surgical shortened for any reason then also you may not be able to absorb cobalamin.

Alcoholism also reduces efficiency of cobalamin absorption by the intestine. So if you consume more alcohol then you are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.

Smokers are also at high risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency as nicotine blocks absorption.


Certain metabolic disorders such as gastritis, celiac disease and inflammatory bowel also reduce vitamin B12 absorption capacity of the intestine.

Certain medication such as metformin taken to control diabetes type 2 interferes in the absorption of cobalamin by the body.

Elderly people who have impaired digestive system are also at risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency

So, if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, elderly person and also have one or more of the above medical conditions then you are certainly going to get vitamin B12 deficiency. You have to make regular check ups and take supplements.

Fortunately excessive amounts of vitamin B12 supplements have not been found toxic, but one should still restrain themselves from overdose.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

In the mild cases deficiency of vitamin B12 may not cause any symptoms, but if it remains untreated then some or more of the following symptoms may appear.

  • Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite and gases
  • General weakness and chronic fatigue
  • Tiredness and lightheadedness
  • Tingling in the extremities of hands and legs
  • Mental problems such as depression memory loss and behavioral problems
  • Muscle weakness and problem in walking
  • Joint pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Palpitations and abnormal heart rate
  • Nausea and cramping
  • Pale skin
  • Vision loss
  • Canker sore
  • Dental problems

People with serious vitamin B12 deficiency can develop pernicious anaemia which can cause memory loss and dementia.

Home Remedies for Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The daily recommended dietary amount (RDA) for vitamin B12 for different people are as under

  • 2.4 microgram for the ages above 14 years
  • 2.6 micrograms for pregnant women
  • 2.8 micrograms for breastfeeding women

If you are a vegan or vegetarian then your options to get vitamin B12 from food are limited.

Vitamin B12 deficiency infographic

For vegans who do not even take milk it is impossible to get the required daily allowance of vitamin B12 from plant based food although some plant based foods have little quantities of vitamin B12 that is not enough at all. So the only option for such people is to take supplements and take vitamin B12 fortified cereals.

Vegetarians who also consume eggs, can get daily required quantities of vitamin B12 from eggs and dairy products.

If you eat all kinds of animal products then your choices to get sufficient vitamin b12 from food are unlimited.

Following are the 5 Food sources of vitamin b12

1. Dairy particularly Yogurt and Cheese

Milk with 1% fat contains 0.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 for serving of hundred grams of milk.

Hundred grams of Greek yoghurt will provide 0.8 micrograms of vitamin B12 which is roughly 25% of daily recommended dietary amount of vitamin B12 for an adult.

Cheddar cheese also provides 0.8 micrograms of vitamin B12 100grams of cheese. This will also give you 400 calories, so you see you can get enough vitamin B12 from dairy if you know how much to consume.

2. Eggs and Poultry

Hundred grams of egg provides about 1.1 micrograms of vitamin B12. If you are a vegetarian who also eats eggs, then with the combination of yoghurt, cheese and egg throughout the day you can get your daily recommended dietary amount of 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 easily.

Chicken also contains vitamin B12, but in much lower quantities than the egg. 100grams of chicken will give you 0.3 micrograms of vitamin B12

Both chicken and egg are cholesterol rich diets, so ensure that you consume proper quantities of these products daily in such a way that your cholesterol intake does not increase above acceptable limits.

3. Red Meat

Hundred grams of red meat(Beef)will provide 6 micrograms of vitamin B12. That is more than double the daily recommended dietary amount. However, red meat is really not so good for your heart health as it is high in cholesterol and saturated fats.

4. Sea Foods

Sea foods are the best sources of vitamin B12. If you really choose the right kind of fish then you will eat healthy without adding cholesterol. Following are some of the fish and their vitamin B12 contents per 100 grams of serving.

  • Shellfish 98.9 micrograms
  • Mackerel fish 19.0 micrograms
  • Smoked Salmon 15.0 micrograms
  • Herring 11.0 micrograms
  • Tuna 9.0 microgram

5. Fortified Cereals and Tofu

100grams of all bran fortified cereals generally contains 20 micrograms of vitamin B12, whereas equal quantities of fortified soy tofu provide just 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12.

Balanced diet is very important for good overall health and vitamin B12 plays a vital role in maintaining that health. So, make sure that you eat sufficient quantities of Vitamin B12 in your diet everyday.

If you believe you have deficiency of Vitamin B12 or it has been identified that you really have vitamin B12 deficiency, then you must consult your doctor who may ask you to take vitamin B12 injections if required.