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Vitamine B-12 is essencial to keep fatigue and forgetfulness away.
If we feel tired even after eight solid hours of sleep, It’s not just because of the long hours we are putting in at work, it could be the sign of a deficiency too. If we also feel depressed without a reason, have a tingling sensation in our hands or feet and have noticed a recent tendency to forget things, it may be that we are lacking in Vitamin B12.
Also known as cobalamin, Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B vitamins and its role in cellular metabolism is closely intertwined with that of folate, another B vitamin.
“Over 50 per cent of Indians have B12 deficiency,” says Sadanand S. Naik, head of the department of clinical biochemistry at Pune’s KEM Hospital.
It can affect anyone and at any age. “The figure is higher among vegetarians, pregnant women (as its requirement goes up during pregnancy) and the elderly (as they do not take adequate nutrition),” says Seema Gulati, head of the nutrition research group at the National Diabetes Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation (NDOC), a Delhi-based NGO.
In all age groups, Vitamin B12 should be in the range of 200 pg/ml to 900 pg/ml of blood, where one pg or picogram is one trillionth of a gram. The early signals of a deficiency are anaemia, lethargy, joint pain, loss of memory and laziness. So if we are being plagued by more than one of these symptoms, we should see doctor and get ourselves tested.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is becoming a growing health concern across the world. An article published this year in the journal Nature Reviews – co-authored by Dr Ralph Green of the US, and a group of 14 international experts – states, “Deficiency of B12 is emerging as a public health concern in many low-income countries. A World Health Organization consultation identified infants, preschool children and pregnant and lactating women as the most vulnerable groups.”
The lack of Vitamin B12 for a sufficiently long period of time can lead to sensory and motor disturbances, ataxia leading to lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements, and cognitive decline leading to dementia and psychiatric disorders. “Advanced Vitamin B12 deficiency could also lead to delirium and paranoia,” says Bangalore-based biological scientist Sujata Kelkar Shetty.
Low B12 levels could even spark off coronary artery disease, suggests a 2009 report of the US-based National Center for Biotechnology Information. It states that the incidence of coronary artery disease is increasing at an alarming rate, especially in developing countries such as India. “This may be due to deficiency of vitamin B12, a micronutrient, sourced only from animal products,” it adds.
There also seems to be a connection between lack of Vitamin B12 and the health of the thyroid gland. “Vitamin B12 deficiency and hypothyroidism are inter-related among young females,” says KEM’s Naik. “This is partly due to vegetarianism, a sedentary lifestyle and not enough exposure to sunlight.”
Incidentally, sunlight helps us make Vitamin D. So there is always a possibility that we may be deficient in both vitamins B12 and D3. “Prolonged D and B12 deficiency leads to impaired bone mineralisation, anaemia and neuro-cognitive disorders. Notable D and B12 deficiency prevails in epidemic proportions all over the Indian subcontinent,” reveals Naik.
Unlike Vitamin D, our body cannot make Vitamin B12. “So we have to get it from animal-based foods (dairy or meat) or from supplements [for vegetarians]. And we should do that on a regular basis, because our body cannot store vitamin B12 for a long time,” Gulati says. Since this vitamin is water soluble, any excess amount flows out of the body.
Ensuring we take in enough Vitamin B12 is sometimes not enough, especially if our stomach lining has been compromised as that impairs its absorption of the vitamin. This can happen in certain gastric ailments as well as in certain autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s. Consuming too much alcohol can also increase your risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency as it may lead to severe depletion of bodily stores of the vitamin. Chronic alcoholism also damages the lining of the stomach and intestines, which impairs absorption.
If we are found to have very low levels of B12 then the immediate relief is injectables. After taking a shot every day for five days, we will then be prescribed pills. There are, however, exceptions. “In pernicious anaemia, Vitamin B12 deficiency is persistent, and long-term injectable B12 is warranted,” says Gulati.
So,it is advicible not to wait for a shot when there are mouthful of delicious food that can give the same results.
Sources of Vitamin B12
*Milk and milk products (yogurt,buttermilk, cheese)
*Eggs, Meat and Fish
Source : The Telegraph, Kolkata(India)