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Eating a variety of vitamins and minerals is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Vitamin B12 is one of eight vital B vitamins our bodies need to work well. Vitamin B12 helps the body to make red blood cells, and it also plays a crucial part in the healthy functioning of the nervous system. B12 also helps the body release energy from food and use folate, a B vitamin.

What foods are a good source of vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 can be found naturally in several foods you may already be consuming.

According to the NHS website, six food types are a good source of vitamin B12:

  • meat
  • fish
  • milk
  • cheese
  • eggs
  • some fortified breakfast cereals

Health website Healthline also outlines foods that are good sources of vitamin B12 too, including:

  • animal liver and kidneys
  • clams
  • sardines
  • beef
  • fortified cereal
  • tuna
  • fortified nutritional yeast
  • trout
  • salmon
  • fortified non-dairy milk
  • milk and dairy products
  • eggs

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) advises that people should be able to get all the vitamin B12 they need by eating a “varied and balanced diet”.

People who take vitamin B12 supplements should not take too much as this could be harmful, but the DHSC advises that taking 2mg or less a day of B12 in supplement form is “unlikely to cause any harm”.

Adults aged 19 to 64 require some 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 every day.

People who follow a vegan diet may not get enough B12 from their diet, as the vitamin is not naturally found in fruit, vegetables or grains.

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What is vitamin B12 deficiency?

Vitamin deficiencies can cause a number of health problems that need to be addressed by a doctor.

According to the NHS website, vitamin B12 or B9 (folate) deficiency anaemia occurs “when a lack of vitamin B12 or folate causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that cannot function properly”.

Red blood cells play a crucial role in keeping the body healthy, doxycycline off label use as these cells carry oxygen around the body via haemoglobin.

A deficiency in vitamin B12 or folate can cause symptoms such as:

  • extreme tiredness
  • a lack of energy
  • pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • a sore and red tongue
  • mouth ulcers
  • muscle weakness
  • disturbed vision
  • psychological problems, which may include depression and confusion
  • problems with memory, understanding and judgement

Anyone who thinks they may have a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency, or anyone concerned about their health in general, should speak to a GP as soon as possible.

To find out whether someone’s symptoms are caused by a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency, a blood test can often help with diagnosis.

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