Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that is used by the body to perform blood and nerve cell functions, and it is important to get a sufficient amount in your diet. Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms include cognitive and concentration problems, depression, fatigue, and a host of other problems that are often too vague to diagnose on symptoms alone. Fortunately, there are only a few types of people who tend to be deficient in B12: vegans, those with pernicious anemia, and the elderly.
The most common group of people that are deficient in B12 are those on vegan diets. B12 comes from animal sources, and so those not eating meat, eggs, or milk might end up lacking this nutrient. If you are a vegan, you should supplement your diet with either fortified soy products like milk and tofu, or add a pill supplement to your daily dietary plan. This is especially true for vegan children, whose bodies require more B12 and who also can’t store the vitamin for long lengths of time.
Other people who might be lacking in B12 are those with a rare disorder called pernicious anemia. B12 is absorbed into the body and converted into a usable form by a chemical in the stomach called intrinsic factor, and pernicious anemia is a disease that interferes with the body’s ability to make intrinsic factor. Thus, those with this condition will have to supplement with vitamin B12.
In light of the above, anyone with a gastrointestinal disturbance whether from disease or surgery may be at risk of developing B12 deficiencies. For instance, elderly people sometimes have less efficient gastrointestinal systems than younger people, and as a result they too are often lacking in B12. Studies have shown that elderly people with low B12 levels were at a higher risk of developing brain atrophy, which is one of the contributing factors to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
If you don’t fall into one of these groups, you are probably not deficient in this nutrient. But what about vitamin B12 benefits as an addition to the diet? Is there anything to gain from taking the supplement if you are not lacking in it? Not really. It is an excellent treatment for cyanide poisoning. It has also shown promise as a treatment for psoriasis when applied to the skin. But in general, there is no reason to supplement with B12 if you don’t suspect that you are deficient in it.