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If you have vitamin B12 deficiency, then it is important to recognize the symptoms of pernicious anemia, as low levels of B12 (cobalamin) may be caused by this form of megaloblastic anemia, a potentially life-threatening disease.
What is pernicious anemia?
Pernicious anemiais a digestive disorder that causes vitamin B12 deficiency. Because one of the side effects involves grossly misshapen and enlarged red blood cells, pernicious anemia has been classified as a type of megaloblastic anemia.
With pernicious anemia, your body is unable to digest vitamin B12 from food sources, due to a lack of the intrinsic factor digestive enzyme. As a result, after several years, your vitamin B12 stores plummet to a dangerous low.
Since vitamin B12 is crucial for all sorts of biochemical reactions, such as protecting your nerve cells through myelin production, converting fat into energy, and supporting red blood cell production, the results of pernicious anemia can be debilitating.
Avoid vitamin B12 deficiency
The best way to avoid getting vitamin B12 deficiency is to include animal-based protein foods in your diet, particularly beef liver, clams, oysters, poultry, eggs, milk, and yogurt.
Still, eating meat and dairy products does not guarantee you will not become deficient in vitamin B12, as there are many risk factors that can inhibit proper absorption of this vitamin.
Who’s at risk?
People at risk for developing B12 deficiency are:
people who exclude primary sources of vitamin B12 from their diet (vegans)
people who have had bariatric surgery
diabetics taking metformin
anybody using long-term medication for acid-reflux
individuals with gastrointestinal disease (IBD, celiac)
people who cannot produce intrinsic factor, a necessary hormone for digesting vitamin B12
Signs of megaloblastic (pernicious) anemia
The most common symptoms of pernicious anemia are:
Frequent tingling or numbness in your hands and feet, described as “pins and needles”
Difficulty walking balanced
Loss of appetite
Swollen, red tongue
Chronic fatigue, constant tiredness
What tests diagnose pernicious anemia?
The only way to find out if your vitamin B12 deficiency has turned into pernicious anemia is to request the following diagnostic tests:
Complete blood count (CBC)
Vitamin B12 blood levels
Methylmalonic acid (MMA) levels
Holotranscobalamin II levels
Bone marrow examination
What is the treatment for pernicious anemia?
Patients of pernicious anemia need to get routine doses of vitamin B12 supplements, usually in the form of vitamin B12 shots. The amount and frequency of B12 injections depend on the severity of the pernicious anemia symptoms.
For extra doses of vitamin B12 between doctor visits, B12-anemia patients have the option of supplementing with over-the-counter (OTC) vitamin B12, as well.
Numerous studies linking elevated homocysteine with mental illness prove that symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency caused by low B12 (cyanocobalamin) in the blood are often mistaken for mental health issues, such as depression, dementia, and schizophrenia.
What is homocysteine?
Homocysteine is an amino acid that your body makes when you eat meat products. Having too much homocysteine in your blood supply causes damage to your arteries and increases your risk for heart disease and stroke.
What is B12, and how does it regulate homocysteine?
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that occurs exclusively in animal-based foods such as beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and milk products. Some of the riches sources of vitamin B12 are organ meats (liver, heart), oysters, and clams.
Together with vitamin B6 and folic acid, vitamin B12 helps break down homocysteine and keep them at a safe, healthy level. Without sufficient stores of these essential vitamins, homocysteine levels would escalate, leaving you at a high risk for developing diseases associated with elevated homocysteine levels, such as neurological impairments and cardiovascular disease.
Elevated homocysteine plasma levels are one of many symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
What illnesses are associated with elevated plasma homocysteine levels?
Scientists believe that homocysteine is behind a wide variety of conditions and illnesses, from visual problems and eating disorders, to heart disease and schizophrenia.
Currently, most scientists agree that elevated homocysteine levels share a significant correlation with the following diseases:
Atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries)
Increased risk of heart attacks
Increased risk of strokes
How many studies link elevated plasma homocysteine levels with mental illness?
A growing number of scientific studies prove a significant correlation between vitamin B12 deficiency, homocysteine levels, and mental health problems, such as schizophrenia, depression, chronic fatigue, dementia, and even eating disorders in women.
1- In Beersheva, Israel, a study focused on treating patients of Alzheimer’s and cerebrovascular disease with folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 supplements. In this randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, scientists of Ben Gurion University noted dramatic cognitive benefits in patients who received the vitamin supplements.
2- In Boston, Massachusetts, a Tufts University study linking low vitamin B12 and cognitive impairment in the elderly noted a direct correlation between vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia, macrocytosis, and cognitive problems such as dementia.
4- Elevated plasma levels of homocysteine in females with eating disorders were also the focus of this German study that linked excessive homocysteine with depression, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa.
5- A Swedish study on older patients with mental illness concluded that age and plasma homocysteine levels more accurately predict cognitive functioning skills than brain imaging, as measured by the Mini mental state examination (MMSE).
Read more about vitamin B12 deficiency and mental illness:
Vitamin B12 supplements essential as part of your weight loss program. What are the benefits of vitamin B12 for weight loss? Vitamin B12 boosts metabolism, in addition to providing energy and stabilizing your mood.
Vitamin B12 contains cobalt; together, the minerals that make up vitamin B12, cobalamin, are essential coenzymes that increase metabolism by converting food to energy in the body. In diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency, researchers often take into account changes in the metabolic rate, in addition to measuring levels of B12 and homocysteine.
“Elevated methylmalonic acid levels might be a more reliable indicator of vitamin B12 status because they indicate a metabolic change that is highly specific to vitamin B12 deficiency.” - National Institutes of Health
People with high metabolisms tend to lose weight more quickly and efficiently than others who have slower metabolic rates. In order to burn fat at an optimal rate, it is essential to maintain healthy stores of vitamin B12.
B12 boosts energy
If you have symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, then you experience symptoms such as tiredness, muscular weakness, decreased motor skills, and lack of energy.
Unfortunately, many people who suffer symptoms of low B12 don’t even know it. Often, comorbid conditions such as clinical depression, anxiety disorder, fibromyalgia, diabetes, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), or hypothyroidism (low thyroid) mask the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency. So, despite taking treatments such as antidepressants, insulin, thyroid medications, or pain relievers, they continue to feel sad and tired all the time, battling with constant “brain fog” without knowing why.
Increasing your energy level provides mental focus, determination, and emotional wellness, in addition to improving your quality of life. These things together assure weight loss success by enabling you to stick to a workout routine, increase your sports performance and stamina, challenge yourself in the gym, and stay on track.
B12 boosts mood
Common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are depression, chronic fatigue, anxiety, paranoia, and unusually aggressive behavior. When you are in a bad mood, you are more likely to make poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drug use, oversleeping, eating fattening, salty or sugary foods, and sedentary activities like television watching and playing video games.
Scientists have proven a high correlation between depression and weight gain. If you feel sluggish, depressed, or more fatigued than usual, then you are statistically less likely to follow an exercise regimen or commit yourself to a new weight loss diet.
Only by taking vitamin B12 supplements can you begin to recover from symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency and achieve an overall sense of well-being.
As reported by Us Magazine, Pregnant Natalie Portman, Oscar winner for The Black Swan, has reportedly taken a leave of absence from her vegan ways; whether this change is permanent or just an extra precaution to deliver more vitamin B12 to her unborn baby remains to be seen.
The 29-year-old actress, who is expecting a child with boyfriend Benjamin Millepied, has always been an outspoken advocate for the vegan lifestyle, which excludes such vitamin B12 sources such as eggs, meat, milk products and fish. Ms. Portman made the decision to become Vegan after reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals in 2009, according to the Daily Mail.
Recent news, such as the death of an infant in France who was exclusively breast-fed by her vegan mother, has brought to light the health risks involved with vitamin B12 deficiencyandanemia, which are common risk factors of veganism.
Natalie, who called in on the Q100 Bert Show, admitted, “I know there are people who do stay vegan, but I think you have to just be careful; watch your iron levels and your B12 levels, and supplement those if there are things you might be low in in your diet.”
Don’t expect to see Natalie heading for the steak house just yet, though; the Star Wars actress is following more of a traditional vegetarian diet, including eggs and dairy products which are rich sources of vitamin B12.
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
Short term memory loss;
Numbness or tinging in hands and feet;
Change in taste perception;
Left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency could result in pernicious anemia, neurological damage or in severe cases, death.