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Why you may need B12



Washington Post
Tuesday, November 01, 2016

What happens if you don’t get enough vitamin B12?

“Vitamin B12 deficiency causes tiredness, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, and megaloblastic anemia,” the National Institutes of Health said. “Nerve problems, such as numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue.” A paper published this summer theorized that Mary Todd Lincoln’s psychological problems were caused by a shortage of the vitamin.

Okay, so you see it’s important. About 15 percent of Americans don’t get enough of it – and “a B12 deficiency can go undiagnosed for years,” J.J. Virgin wrote in Prevention magazine. Symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and forgetfulness might point to such a deficiency.

Certain people are more likely to be deficient in B12, Virgin wrote:

Vegetarians and vegans. B12 is found naturally only in animal products (most notably beef liver and clams, NIH noted.) “In fact, that’s a big part of how the ‘pale, weak vegan’ stereotype came to be: chronic B12 deficiency causes pale skin and weakness,” Virgin wrote.

People older than 50. You are more likely to have a deficiency as you age – and symptoms such as memory loss are easier to overlook when everybody attributes them to “senior moments.”

People who drink alcohol regularly. The problem is, B12 is stored in your liver, and that is stressed by too much alcohol.

People with acid reflux. As if heartburn weren’t bad enough, both stomach problems and the medications used to treat them prevent your body from absorbing B12.

People with diabetes or an autoimmune disease. Again, these conditions prevent your body from absorbing the vitamin.

Fortunately, as Virgin noted, B12 supplements are easily available, by shots, lozenges and additives in food. You don’t have to worry about overdoing it, because B12 is water-soluble – so your body flushes any excess.