The human body needs vitamin B12 to help make red blood cells, nerves, DNA and to carry out other important functions in the body. Some people do not consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others are unable to absorb the vitamin, no matter how much they take in. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common and certain warning signs may be evident.
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The NHS said: “Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia can cause a wide range of symptoms.
“These usually develop gradually but can worsen if the condition goes untreated.
“Anaemia is where you have fewer red blood cells than normal, or you have an abnormally low amount of a substance called haemoglobin in each red blood cell.
“General symptoms may include lack of energy, breathlessness, feeling faint or headaches.”
One symptom which is not recognised but has been demonstrated in studies to be a potential sign is trouble sleeping.
In a study with US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, vitamin B12 treatment for sleep-wake rhythm disorders was investigated.
The study noted: “Vitamin B12 was administered to two patients suffering for many years from different sleep-wake rhythm disorders.
“One patient was a 15-year-old blind girl suffering from a free-running sleep-wake rhythm.
“A daily dose of 1.5 mg of B12 was administered. Shortly thereafter, her sleep-wake rhythm was entrained and her 24-hour sleep-wake rhythm was maintained while she was on the medication.
“The other patient was a 55-year-old man suffering from delayed sleep phase syndrome for 18 years of age.
“After administration of VB12 at the daily doses of 1.5 mg, his sleep-wake rhythm disorder was improved.”
The study concluded that vitamin B12 supplements might help to improve sleep disorders.
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How to ensure you are getting enough vitamin B12
Vegetarians, pregnant or breastfeeding women and others who are most at risk of a deficiency need to carefully track their diets closely to ensure they are getting enough vitamin B12.
Organ meats are some of the most nutritious foods out there.
Liver and kidneys, especially from lamb are rich in vitamin B12.
Other foods include clams, sardines, beef, tuna and trout.
For vegetarians fortified cereals are a good food option to help ensure adequate levels of B12.
Although not commonly recommended as part of a healthy diet, fortified cereals can be a good source of B vitamins, especially B12.
The NHS said: “The treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia depends on what’s causing the condition.
“Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.
“Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
“There are two types of vitamin B12 injections including hydroxocobalamin and cyanocobalamin.”
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