Everything You Need To Know About Vitamin B12 & D3 Deficiencies & How To Prevent Them

by Anita Fernandes
Published on In HealthLeave a Comment

The US is probably the only country in the world, where a single meal can be a whopping 4,000 calories and no one bats an eyelid –that’s approximately twice your caloric requirement for an entire day! This, along with our soaring obesity rates makes it tough to believe that we could suffer from any sort of nutritional deficiencies. However, this is a classic case of quantity over quality. We sure do eat a lot but since a lot of it is unhealthy or junk foods, there has been a rise in vitamin deficiencies – among the most common ones are vitamin b12 deficiency (cobalamin) and vitamin d 3 deficiencies. 

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Large surveys in the US show that approximately 6 percent of the population below age 60 suffers from vitamin B12 deficiency and that the prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency increases with age. It also shows that close to 20 percent of those in later life stages have marginal statuses for this vitamin deficiency.

How To Combat Vitamin B12 deficiency

In most cases of nutritional deficiencies, people are advised by their doctors to cut down on meat and increase their intake of fresh fruit and veggies. Well, before you start to roll your eyes, here’s a bit of good news for you – one of the best ways to treat or prevent vitamin B12 deficiency is to eat more meat! Lamb and beef are excellent sources, while chicken and turkey are good sources of vitamin B12. This is not a license to binge on burgers; processed meat has a lower vitamin content, so opt for unprocessed meats instead. You should also increase your seafood intake – seafood has the highest vitamin B12 content with sardines, salmon, and tuna topping the list of the best sources of vitamin B12. 

How To Recognize Vitamin B 12 Deficiency

The human body requires vitamin B12 to make red blood cells so a deficiency of this vitamin results in a low red blood cell count – this is known as Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, low energy levels, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, problems concentrating, and bleeding gums. Prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to nerve damage which can cause loss of balance or numbness and tingling of the hands and feet. However, vitamin B12 deficiency does not always have symptoms and a blood test is required for a definite diagnosis.

Vitamin D3 Deficiency

There are 2 types of vitamin D – vitamin D2 and vitamin D3; vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is the recommended form of vitamin D as it is the natural form of vitamin D that our bodies make from sunlight. Vitamin D deficiency is common in the US population, with an overall prevalence rate of 41 percent with some population groups also showing a prevalence rate as high as 82 percent! Vitamin D deficiency is a particularly serious problem as it has been linked to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

How To Combat Vitamin D3 Deficiency

Our skin produces vitamin D3 in the presence of sunlight so being indoors too much can lead to vitamin D deficiency. While spending more time outdoors will help to treat and prevent vitamin D deficiency, you should also increase your intake of vitamin D rich foods. Fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon are excellent sources of vitamin D. Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks also contain modest amounts of this vitamin and can be included in a diet for vitamin D deficient individuals.

How To Recognize Vitamin D3 Deficiency

In most cases, vitamin D deficiency does not cause any observable symptoms. Some individuals with vitamin D deficiency may experience fatigue or muscle weakness as well as muscle pain. In rare cases of severe prolonged vitamin D deficiency, individuals may develop thin, brittle, or misshapen bones. Children with vitamin D deficiency may suffer from vitamin D deficiency diseases such as rickets and osteomalacia (softening of the bones). In cases where doctors suspect vitamin D deficiency, a blood test may be necessary for a definite diagnosis.

The Takeaway

Vitamin supplements may help to treat vitamin deficiencies, but the only way to prevent them from recurring is through a balanced diet that contains plenty of healthy foods such as fish, nuts, and vegetables, which are often lacking in our diet. According to a recent study, over 400, 000 deaths in the US each year are linked to unhealthy eating habits. Moving towards a holistic diet and lifestyle will help to prevent disease, allowing you to enjoy better physical and mental health.

References:

  • Allen, Lindsay H. “How Common Is Vitamin B-12 Deficiency?” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 89, no. 2, 2008, doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26947a.
  • “Vitamin B12 Fact Sheet for Health Professionals.” NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Mar. 2018, ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-HealthProfessional/.
  • “Vitamin D Deficiency.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 31 May 2018, medlineplus.gov/vitaminddeficiency.html.
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