Vitamin B12 is one of the B complex vitamins, and it is arguably one of the most complex of the vitamin group. Just like any vitamin, it is not naturally synthesized in the body. You get it from animal sources, such as meat, shellfish, milk, and eggs. Thus, if you are vegan, you are already developing the deficiency of it. Other factors that contribute to this deficiency are age and health conditions such as pernicious anemia, atrophic gastritis, and use of acid-reflux drugs such as metformin and PPIs (proton-pump inhibitors). Moreover, this deficiency poses a threat to your overall health. Let us take a look at the contribution of the vitamin to the maintenance of your overall health.
Since Vitamin B12 is needed for the building of myelin sheaths that provide protection to the nerves, deficiency of it can lead to permanent nerve damage. The common effects of permanent nerve damage are numbness and tingling of the hands and feet, mental confusion, and loss of balance. Moreover, the vitamin is needed for the production of healthy red blood cells, so not having sufficient levels of it may lead to anemia. In general, people who are deficient of it experience fatigue and overall weakness, and this affects their quality of life.
So how can you prevent deficiency of the vitamin? If animal products are a part of your diet, then you may be getting enough levels of the vitamin. However, if you are diagnosed with pernicious anemia or are taking acid-reflux drugs, getting it from your diet may not be enough. The vitamin is protein-bound, and if you have pernicious anemia, your body is not able to produce intrinsic factor, which is a glycoprotein needed for the absorption of the vitamin. Moreover, sufficient levels of stomach acid are needed for its absorption, but acid-reflux drugs inhibit the release of stomach acid.
For you to avoid the health problems associated with Vitamin B12 deficiency, your diet should include animal products. However, if you are prior to this deficiency because of one of the factors mentioned above, then you may need to get it through supplementation. For vegans, including B12-fortified foods in their diet may also be highly beneficial for them.