Vitamin B-12 Deficiency More Common Than Previously Believed

Older adults were once considered to be the only victims of vitamin B-12 deficiency, but new findings show that the condition may be more common than previously believed.

In a study published in the February 2012 issue of the Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, researchers examined vitamin B-12 concentrations in blood plasma of almost 3,000 participants, and found that a large number of the participants had low levels of vitamin B-12 in their blood. Thirty-nine percent of the participants had low to normal levels of vitamin B-12, while 17 percent had low enough levels of vitamin B-12 to cause deficiency. Researchers found that deficiency was not apparent in any one age group, but rather, deficiency affected all age groups.

Although vitamin B-12 can naturally be found in meat, it is not absorbed into the body well because it is tightly bound to the protein in meat, and requires adequate stomach acidity to break it apart. People with inadequate levels of stomach acidity may not be able to absorb vitamin B-12 properly. Researchers suggest taking vitamin B-12 supplements or eating vitamin B-12 fortified foods, rather than depending on meat sources. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause health problems such as anemia, dementia and permanent nerve damage.