What is Vitamin B12 deficiency?

Up to 15% of the general population has a vitamin B12 deficiency, making it one of the most common nutrient deficiencies regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status. 

The groups at highest risk for vitamin B12 deficiency are older adults (60+), vegans and vegetarians, pregnant women, and people with pernicious anemia (an autoimmune disease causing gastric atrophy). A b12 deficiency can be detected by blood tests.

Common vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms:

  • Megaloblastic anemia
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Nerve damage
  • Numbness
  • Tingling in hands
  • Tingling in legs
  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Soreness of mouth
  • Soreness of tongue
  • Canker sores

What causes a vitamin B12 deficiency?

  • A diet lacking in vitamin B12-rich foods
  • Following a vegan or vegetarian diet
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Surgery in the gastrointestinal tract
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Medications that suppress stomach acid
  • Pregnancy

Further reading: Harvard School of Public Health, National Institutes of Health