Vitamin B12 is one of the B complex vitamins and is needed for various processes in the body, including production of energy, DNA, synthesis, formation of new and healthy red blood cells, and maintenance of the nervous system. While the body produces the vitamin naturally and the liver is able to store it for a long period of time, certain factors can cause people to be deficient from it. These factors include certain diseases that cause the body to not be able to absorb it. Furthermore, this deficiency can lead to certain diseases.
Pernicious anemia is one of the diseases usually associated with Vitamin B12 deficiency. This is due to the autoimmune disease leads to the failure in the production of intrinsic factor, a glycoprotein the stomach releases and is required in the absorption of the vitamin.
Another disease that can cause deficiency of the vitamin is atrophic gastritis. Usually associated with the bacterium Helibactor pylori, it is characterized by an inflammation and thinning of the lining of the stomach. This inflammation decrees the ability of the stomach to produce acid, and this causes malabsorption of the vitamin. Why do we need sufficient levels of stomach acid to absorb the vitamin? This is because the vitamin is protein-bound – sufficient levels of stomach acid are required for it to be released and absorbed by the stomach. Furthermore, the disease is common among the elderly – up to 30 percent of individuals 50 years old and above are affected by the disease.
Nervous System Disorders
Perhaps some of the most serious effects of Vitamin B12 deficiency are nervous system disorders. Insufficient levels of the vitamin in the body may lead to prion diseases. Described by the CDC as rapidly progressive and always fatal, prion diseases are neurodegenerative diseases that are thought about by prions, misshapen proteins that may cause healthy proteins to be misshapen as well. Prions can damage tissues in the nervous system, resulting to prion diseases. Moreover, deficiency of the vitamin may also lead to permanent nerve damage, which is typically characterized by mental confusion, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, loss of balance, and depression.
With all these diseases related to Vitamin B12 deficiency , supplementation of the Vitamin can not be overstated, especially for those who are more prone to it. The elderly and vegans are the two groups of people who are more prone to developing deficiency of the vitamin – the elderly because they may not have enough stomach acid to absorb the vitamin and vegans because the food sources of the vitamin are generally animal products.