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Importance of Vitamin B12 in Diabetes Management

by karamveer singh
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Vitamin B12 maintains the health of blood cells and nervous system. The best way to obtain it is via diet. This essential vitamin occurs in dairy products, meat, fish, and poultry. If a person does not consume enough of these foods, it may cause a deficiency.

There are other ways of incurring this deficiency. For example, diabetes mellitus may enhance the risk of B-12 deficiency. As, it can be a side effect of metformin. Metformin is a common treatment for type 2 diabetes. It is found that type 2 diabetics were low in Vitamin B12. Keep on reading to learn the signs of VitaminB12 deficiency. Also, the vitamin’s effect on the overall health. And, what a person can do to manage this deficiency.

Deficiency of Vitamin B-12: How it feels

Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency can be mild initially. If a person has slightly low levels of B-12, he or she might not have any signs at all. Few of the more common early signs include:

  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • constipation

It can be easy to avoid these as minor complaints. With time, inadequate B-12 may cause bigger problems.

Causes of vitamin B-12 deficiency

B-12 mostly occurs in animal products. It is not present naturally in plants. Hence, individuals who are vegetarian or vegan can be at risk of B-12 deficiency. Few vegetarian foods may include breakfast cereals and energy bars. These pack vitamin B12. Consuming sufficient of vitamin B-12 isn’t the only issue. The body also requires to be capable of absorbing it effectively.

Various medicines can make it difficult for the body to absorb B-12. These can be:

  • medicines for acid reflux and peptic ulcer like:
  • famotidine
  • lansoprazole
  • omeprazole
  • ranitidine
  • metformin, a common type 2 diabetes drug
  • chloramphenicol, an antibiotic

Another reason for vitamin B-12 deficiency is shortage of instrinsic factor (IF). It is a protein produced by stomach cells. These stomach cells might be prone to the attack by the immune system. This may produce a drop in IF production. It absorbs dietary vitamin B-12 into the small intestine.

Why B-12 deficiency is serious

Very low levels of B-12 may cause serious complications like anemia. Anemia means a person lacks enough healthy RBCs. RBCs carry oxygen in the bloodstream. Anemia deprives the cells of much-demanded oxygen.

Signs of anemia are:

  • fatigue
  • drowsiness
  • headache
  • pale skin
  • chest pain

Another possible sign of a B-12 deficiency is loss of taste and smell. More serious signs are fast or abnormal heartbeat and breathing difficulty.

B-12 deficiency may also cause peripheral neuropathy. Signs can be:

  • numbness
  • fatigue
  • pain
  • paresthesia (a burning or itchy feeling of the skin)

Peripheral neuropathy occurs in the arms, hands, legs, and feet. Some individuals experience numbness, itchy, or a prickly sensation. Low B-12 associates with high levels of an amino acid, homocysteine. This may enhance the risk of heart disorder and stroke.

A serious, long-term B-12 shortage may result in:

  • delusions
  • depression
  • loss of mobility
  • difficulty walking
  • memory loss with dementia
  • convulsions

Diabetic neuropathy and B-12 neuropathy

It’s tough to express the difference. One of the likely complications of diabetes is neuropathy. It is also known as nerve damage. It results due to adverse effects of high sugar over a long time.

The most common signs of diabetic neuropathy are same as for peripheral neuropathy. It often affects hands, arms, legs, and feet. Diabetic neuropathy may also influence other body parts, such as gut. A person does not have to be diabetic to develop neuropathy. Constant B-12 deficiency might also damage the nerves. Whether a person is diabetic or not, never ignore the signs of neuropathy.

How to diagnose B-12 deficiency?

If a person has signs of a B12 deficiency, visit a doctor immediately. Few early signs might be vague. They might also result due to other factors. An easy blood test determines if the problem is low B-12. If a person is diabetic and/or has a B12 deficiency, doctor would suggest other tests. These tests are complete history and physical assessment. He or she may also consider the blood glucose levels in relation to diabetes. Suggested levels of B12 differ by age. Many teens and adults require 2.4 micrograms per day. Children require 0.4-1.8 mcg of B12 every day based on age.

What to do in case of signs of B-12 deficiency?

Maintaining healthy blood glucose levels control B-12 absorption. Together with diet, regular exercise and sleep helps. A doctor might suggest a treatment plan depending upon the needs.

Also, a person can increase B-12 in the diet. Good sources of vitamin B-12 can be:

  • poultry
  • beef liver
  • eggs
  • dairy products
  • red meat
  • fish

Foods that packs B-12 involve:

  • bread
  • tofu
  • nutritional yeast (cheesy-tasting vegetarian flakes)
  • cereals

Ensure to read the nutrition labels carefully. A doctor might also suggest consuming oral vitamin B-12 supplements. This is true for vegetarians or vegans. If a person is severely B12 deficient, B-12 injections can help.


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