Vitamin B12 deficiency can trigger symptoms such as tiredness, breathlessness and heart palpitations. Left untreated, more serious health problems can occur, including cardiovascular disease and infertility. The best way to make sure you’re getting enough of the vitamin is by eating B12-rich foods. But some foods are better sources than others.
The best way to make sure you’re getting enough of the vitamin is by eating B12-rich foods
Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, offers the “A list of B12 foods” on its website.
Here are five:
- Beef – 3 ounces contains 1.5mcg of B12
- Eggs – 1 large egg contains 0.6mcg of B12
- Fortified cereal – one cup contains 6mcg of B12
- Salmon – 3 ounces contains 4.9mcg of B12
- Low-fat milk – 1 cup contains 1.2mcg of B12
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in almost all foods of animal origin.
British Nutrition Foundation says: “Green plants provide none but it can be synthesised by some algae and bacteria, although the bioavailability of such forms has been disputed.”
This means, those with plant based diets, such as vegans, are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency if they don’t eat the right foods.
For vegans, they should look to the following food sources:
- Yeast extract (for example Marmite)
- Soya milk, yoghurts and desserts
- Breakfast cereals
- Certain brands of rice drinks and oat drinks
Who else is most at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency
Alongside vegans and vegetarians consuming limited dairy produce, the elderly population and people taking metformin for a long time can also be at increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency due to vitamin B12 not being absorbed properly in the body
The NHS advises if you consume very little vitamin B12 foods you may be advised to take a vitamin B12 supplement or to have vitamin B12 injections.
Vitamin B12 supplements are also available, but the Department of Health advises you don’t take too many as this could be harmful.
Taking 2mg or less a day of vitamin B12 in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
But always go by the advice of your GP.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
Bupa lists the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency as:
- Feeing very tired
- Breathlessness even after little exercise
- Heart palpitations
- A reduced appetite
- A sore mouth and tongue
The health organisation adds: “If you have vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, you may also look pale or jaundiced (have a yellowy tinge to your skin and the whites of your eyes).
“As well as the symptoms of anaemia, vitamin B12-deficiency may cause symptoms related to your nerves. This is called vitamin B12 neuropathy. It may affect your movement and sensation, especially in your legs, cause numbness or pins and needles and decrease your sensitivity to touch, vibration or pain. It can also cause confusion, depression, poor concentration and forgetfulness.
“These symptoms aren’t always due to vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, but if you have them see your GP.”
Another symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency experts note may be apparent when you go to the toilet.
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