Vitamin B-12 is considered an essential vitamin in the human diet. It’s not a difficult vitamin to get, providing that you’re eating an adequate amount of animal products like meat, dairy, eggs, or fish. Men and women over the age of 14 years old should aim to consume 2.4 mcg of B-12 per day, per the RDA.
Despite the abundance of B-12 sources, deficiency is common. It’s estimated that up to 15% of Americans are deficient in this vital nutrient.
Because B-12 is a vital nutrient, deficiency can lead to the development of degenerative disease. One such condition caused by lack of B-12 is peripheral neuropathy, a condition involving damage to the nerves. It should be noted however that it does take a long time for a deficiency to develop. A human body can store enough vitamin B-12 to last around 6 years.
A deficiency typically occurs due to one or more of the following reasons:
- A diet lacking in animal products, such as a vegan.
- Elderly individuals who have impaired B-12 absorption.
- Any individual with a gastrointestinal disorder may have difficulty absorbing B vitamins.
- Certain medications may inhibit B-12 absorption.
The best way to prevent a nerve condition from developing is to keep an eye on your B-12 stores through blood testing and to consume enough animal products daily. If you have impaired B-12 absorption, you may want to consider supplementing B-12 orally or through injections.