Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in the production of red blood cells, as well as normal functioning of the nervous system.
If you are low in B12 this can lead to several problems, these usually develop gradually but can get worse over time.
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Pale skin
- Sore and red tongue (Glossitis)
- Memory and concentration problems
- Pins and needles
- Poor mood
Tiredness and Fatigue
Red blood cells are produced by the body through a process called erythropoiesis, which requires folate (vitamin B9), vitamin B12 and iron.
Without red blood cells, oxygen cannot be transported to all the cells in the body for cellular respiration to generate a form of energy called ATP, which can leave the body feeling tired, weak and fatigued.
Without sufficient levels of vitamin B12 red blood cells produced in the bone marrow can become large and fragile, making them unable to pass into circulation. This lack of red blood cells causes pale looking skin.
Sore and red tongue (Glossitis)
Studies have found a swollen and inflamed tongue could be an early sign of low vitamin B12. While glossitis isn’t specific to vitamin B12 deficiency, many people state this as their only symptom before being diagnosed with low levels.
Memory and concentration problems
Vitamin B12 is vital in providing cofactors that form myelin, a protein that is essential in forming the myelin sheath that protects the spinal, cranial and peripheral nerves. A lack of protective covering can cause damage to the nerves resulting in neurological problems.
Pins and needles
The first signs of neurological damage may not be the decline in memory and concentration. A more common symptom is the sensation of pins and needles in your hands and feet.
Some researchers suggest that homocysteine in high levels are thought to cause neurotransmitter deficiencies which can affect mood.
Homocysteine is used by methionine – a vitamin B12-dependent enzyme – therefore low levels of B12 results in low levels of methionine and increased levels of homocysteine.