Did you know that you can eat a ton of veggies and still not get enough B12? Here are some risks and symptoms as well as some ways to treat deficiency.


The Vitamin for Energy:

Believe it or not, B12 is a powerhouse. It helps to make DNA and red blood cells, and it is crucial for healthy immune and brain systems. Also, your metabolism can’t run very smoothly without it. However, B12 isn’t like other vitamins. You can only find it in animal products like meat, eggs, fish, and dairy. Up to 15% of people are not getting enough B12 and are more likely to develop celiac disease or end up with other digestive problems. Some common signs of vitamin B12 deficiency are exhaustion, brain fog, and rapid heartbeat.


Who is At Risk?:

If your diet largely consists of plant-based foods, then you can be at risk for a deficiency. This is due to the fact that B12 is found in animal products. For those who consume eggs (Protein food group) and dairy products (Dairy food group), try to have at least one source a day from both food groups. If you are vegan, you should look into taking a supplement or consume vitamin B12 fortified foods, such as breakfast cereal and grains. Some other examples would be nondairy milks and meat substitutes.


50+ Can Be At Risk as Well:

Adults over 50 are also at risk. As you get older, your stomach produces less acid, and stomach acid is key for absorbing B12. About one in 31 adults over 50 will have a B12 deficiency. On average, they tend to have poorer appetite and food intake and may be taking medicines that may also reduce stomach acid levels. Some seniors can actually lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food at all and must take supplements, and if the deficiency is severe, injections.



B12 doesn’t get its energy nickname for nothing. If you have inadequate B12, it can put a dent in red blood cell production, and some of the earliest signs of a deficiency can include feeling ragged, weak, and confused. Not only are these clues vague, but not everyone will experience them the same way. And since these symptoms can be attributed to other causes, many people don’t think they need to be tested for a B12 deficiency.


Heartburn Drugs Can Cause It:

Some of the prescriptions we take for heartburn can cause the deficiency because they suppress the production of stomach acid, which is needed to absorb the vitamin. Researchers have found that if you take medications called proton pump inhibitors (like Prilosec and Nexium) for two years or more, you have a 65% higher risk of deficiency. If you use medications like Pepcid and Zantac, your risk of developing a deficiency increases by 25%. If you take any of these medications regularly, you should talk to your doctor about steps you can take to protect yourself.


It Can Be Mistaken for Dementia:

Oftentimes, the symptoms of a deficiency can mimic those of dementia, such as disorientation, memory loss, and difficulty thinking and reasoning. It can be difficult to distinguish between the deficiency and dementia, especially since older people are more at risk for both. Often, the two conditions overlap; 75% to 90% of B12 deficient people may also have neurological complications like dementia. When a B12 shortage strikes a young person, it will typically resemble dementia. Experts aren’t really sure why the two are connected, but patients with unexplained cognitive decline should be tested for a B12 deficiency.


The Best Sources Are Meat and Fish:

Clams and beef liver have the highest levels of B12. If you’re not a fan of either, there are plenty of other options; beef, oysters, chicken, turkey, trout, and salmon all have high B12. One serving delivers close to or more than 100% of your RDA. Eggs and milk are some other sources as well.


Supplements and Fortified Foods Can Help:

Supplements and fortified foods will help older adults, vegans, vegetarians, or those who aren’t able to absorb B12 naturally. When you suspect absorption is an issue, you can load up on foods naturally high in B12 and still not solve the problem. B12 in its synthetic form is more readily absorbed. Some of the best places to find it in food are fortified cereals, which can contain 100% of your RDA.


Some Other Risks and Symptoms as Well as Some Ways to Treat Deficiency:

Heavy drinking increases your odds.

B12 deficiency can trigger a false positive on a pap test.

It’s linked to pernicious anemia.

It’s linked to immune system issues.

It can be caused by digestive problems.

It can happen after weight loss surgery.

It can cause tingling, weakness, and balance issues.

Babies can get it too.

It can be hard to recognize a B12 deficiency.

A blood test is the only way to confirm it.

Visible signs include pale skin, a sore tongue, and mouth ulcers.


If you have any of these symptoms or concerns, please contact your doctor.