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Vitamin B12

About

Vitamin B12 is important for production of red blood cells which carry oxygen around the body. B12 is also involved in metabolism and the nervous system and prolonged lack of vitamin B12 may cause nerve damage. Although Vitamin B12 is almost entirely found in animal-based foods, many vegetarian and vegan products, especially plant milks are now fortified with Vitamin B12.

What might a low result mean?

Low levels are seen in people with pernicious anaemia, an autoimmune disease which prevents the absorption of vitamin B12, and anyone who suffers from absorption problems including the elderly, people with inflammatory bowel disease and people who consume too much alcohol. Conditions and medications which affect the body's production of stomach acid can also cause absorption problems; people with hypothyroidism as well as individuals who are taking proton pump inhibitors (PPI's) should be careful to ensure their vitamin B12 levels remain normal. Because of the lack of animal products in their diets, vegetarians and vegans may have an increased risk of being vitamin B12 deficient, especially if they don't eat foods which have been fortified with vitamin B12 or take a B12 supplement.

What might a high result mean?

A high level of vitamin B12 is usually the result of taking too many B12 supplements. Raised levels of vitamin B12 can indicate a liver disorder, such as acute hepatitis or cirrhosis. This is because vitamin B12 is stored by the liver, and so when it is damaged, it cannot uptake more and leaks. Elevated levels are also seen in some blood disorders.

How might I improve my result?

If you are found to be low in vitamin B12 you can aim to increase your level by taking a vitamin B12 supplement. If that doesn't improve levels then you may need a regular injection from your GP. Vegetarians and vegans can improve dietary intake of vitamin B12 by incorporating fortified foods into their diet as well as adding nutritional yeast flakes to their meals.