Vitamin B12 and iron deficiencies led to human growth retardation and other side effects

Vitamins and minerals are vital to ensure that our body functions to the best of its ability. Deficiency can cause serious and debilitating side effects. And in some cases, they can even stunt your growth if they happen when you’re younger.

This was the case with one 18-year-old man who was admitted to a medical center with “severe” anemia as a result of vitamin B12 and iron deficiency.

His story has been presented as a case study in clinical and experimental pediatrics.

Most notably, the deficiencies led to “short stature”—his height was 137.7 centimeters, or four feet five inches—and “delayed puberty.”


The study explains: “An 18-year-old patient presented to our facility with the main complaints of short stature, prepubertal puberty, and dyspnea on exertion for one year.

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“He was severely anemic with a hemoglobin level of 3.3 grams per deciliter (g/dL).

“Examination of the system on admission revealed prolonged dizziness and dyspnea on exertion, which worsened over the past year.

“He also complained of early satiety with meals but denied gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea.

“On physical examination, he was conscious but appeared chronically ill and very pale.”

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Medical staff noted that his height of 137.7 cm and weight of 28.9 kg were below the third percentile for his age.

His public hair and genital development have been recorded as Tanner’s first stage—usually a preadolescent stage, meaning no signs of puberty.

Further tests showed that his serum iron level was 23 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL), below the normal range of 50 to 170 mcg/dL.

Serum vitamin B12 levels were 60 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL), below healthy levels of 211-911 pg/mL.

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The study concluded: “Based on these results, the patient was diagnosed with anemia caused by a combined vitamin B12 and iron deficiency associated with malabsorption caused by short bowel syndrome.”


As a result, he was given vitamin B12 and iron by injection into a vein, a method often used if one cannot absorb them properly.

“He was discharged on day 10 post-hospital with improvement in dizziness and dyspnea on exertion,” the study says.

“After discharge, he received parenteral administration of vitamin B12 and iron supplements at the outpatient clinic.”

Two years after the start of treatment, the patient’s weight and height increased to 42.3 kg and 154.2 cm.

It added, “He has also reached puberty, with Tanner stage IV pubic hair and a testicular volume of over 10 ml.”

Good sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • eggs
  • Cheese
  • Milk
  • Yeast extract.

Sources of iron include:

  • Liver
  • red meat
  • Beans such as red beans, edamame and chickpeas
  • nuts
  • Dried fruits – for example, dried apricots.
  • Enriched breakfast cereals
  • Soy flour.

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