Vitamin B12 supports numerous functions in the body, such as helping to make red blood cells and aiding psychological function. Case studies looking into the effects of low B12 underline its invaluable contribution. Falling short of B12 can be a hammer blow to the body.
A case study published in Clinical Practice chronicles the physical and mental decline of a woman with low B12.
In March 2005, a 41-year-old woman was referred by her general dentist to the surgery and buccal pathology service at João de Barros Barreto University Hospital.
Her chief complaint was difficulty in eating certain types of food (mainly banana and tomato) because of a burning sensation and the presence of “red stains” on the inside of her cheeks and on her tongue.
Red patches on the tongue are a well-known oral feature of B12 deficiency.
She had been a strict vegetarian for 2.5 years and had not consumed milk, cheese, fish, meat or eggs during that time.
Her diet is relevant here because B12 is mainly found in animal products.
The current symptoms had been present for more than a year. Her past medical and dental histories were non-contributory and she reported no history of allergy.
During clinical evaluation, paleness and dry lips were detected. The patient also displayed a disturbance of taste (she was unable to sense the flavour of a variety of fruits and vegetables), fatigue after simple daily activities.
The woman also exhibited disturbance of memory and slowing mental faculty, characterised by forgetting recent facts, dates, appointments and difficulty in answering simple questions, respectively.
According to the NHS, a decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement, can signal B12 deficiency.
These cognitive problems are also a sign of dementia, the health body warns.
Upon further examination, it was determined that the woman had B12 deficiency.
Treatment comprised doses of cobalamin – a B12 injection – administered intramuscularly over 30 days) and 1 mg of folic acid daily for 30 days.
Blood cell counts were repeated monthly. The patient was asked to modify her diet and to add beef liver daily.
She returned weekly to the surgery and buccal pathology service for evaluation of her oral lesions, which began to diminish during the first week of therapy.
After 14 days of treatment, the lesions had completely disappeared, as had all other symptoms.
According to the NHS, the treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on what’s causing the condition.
Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.
The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK is pernicious anaemia, which is not related to your diet.