47 million Americans are B12 deficient
An estimated 47 million Americans are B12 deficient, and very few of them know it. Vitamin B12 is vital in the production of DNA and red blood cells and the regulation of energy, sleep and mood cycles in the body. A lack of B12 hinders the body’s ability to regenerate new cells, causing accelerated aging at the physical and cognitive level. Prolonged deficiency can lead to severe health problems including permanent nervous system damage, but symptoms of B12 deficiency often go unnoticed or are commonly mistaken for symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, depression, stroke and other illnesses. Doctors say that the average American consumes a sufficient amount of B12 through diet, but that the problem often stems from decreased ability to absorb the vitamin.
Common symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
• Declined strength
• Low energy
• Vision loss
• Difficulty sleeping
• Brain fog or confusion
• Tingling in arms and legs
Who’s At Risk
Age and intake of certain medications can affect a person’s ability to absorb B12. The most common cause of B12 deficiency is age. As a person gets older, their body produces less of an acid needed to breakdown B12, often leading to deficiency. For this reason, people over the age of 45 are particularly at risk. One study suggested that 50% of older Americans are lacking in B12. Those taking acid-suppressing drugs, ulcer medications or aspirin frequently experience B12 deficiency because of the effect these drugs have on their stomach lining and chemistry. People consuming vegan and vegetarian diets are also considered at risk because of their decreased consumption of foods with naturally occurring B12.
Dietitian Keri Gans explained that people with a normal ability to absorb B12 can get adequate amounts of the vitamin by consuming fortified cereals, soy milk, fish, yogurt or grass-fed meat (particularly bison) as a normal part of their diet. Gans also suggested sublingual tablets as a cost-effective method of treating and preventing B12 deficiency. Those with impaired absorption and more severe deficiencies may require a prescription dose sublingual supplement or B12 injection, as both methods bypass digestive absorption and deposit straight into the blood stream. Gans noted that vitamin B12 has no upper tolerable limit; therefore, it is safe for most people to supplement with.