Vitamin B12 is credited for many important functions in the body and chief among them is supporting proper red blood cell formation, neurological function, and DNA synthesis. Lacking the vitamin therefore causes the body to undergo a number of unsettling changes. Some of the most serious signs of B12 deficiency are those related impaired brain function.
According to Harvard Health, a severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to deep depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss, and loss of taste.
Research investigating the link between B12 deficiency and psychiatric problems in particular paints a harrowing picture.
One case report published in the journal Neurology followed a 27-year-old man presented to a neurology clinic in Zambia with progressive difficulty walking over one month.
A month before presentation, he became increasingly withdrawn and was diagnosed with depression in a psychiatric clinic.
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Vitamin B12 deficiency: Severe cases of B12 involve episodes of depression and paranoia
On presentation, he had a five day day history of visual and auditory hallucinations, progressive paranoia and had stopped walking.
Examination revealed a thin patient responding to auditory and verbal hallucinations who accused the examiner of trying to harm him.
He was supplemented with injectable vitamin B12.
After two months, his mental status had nearly returned to normal.
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The link between depression and B12 deficiency appears to be strong.
Researchers published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reviewed studies of depression and low vitamin B-12 status.
They found substantial evidence that a decrease in the vitamin B-12 serum correlates with an increase in depression.
They also state that high vitamin B-12 status may be associated with better treatment outcomes of depression.
B12 deficiency: Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12
How to treat a B12 deficiency
The treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia depends on what’s causing the condition.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells in the blood, or the amount of haemoglobin in them, is lower than normal, causing a condition in which red blood cells are not able to supply enough oxygen to all the tissues in the body.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
“If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals,” explains the NHS.
People who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life, notes the health body.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy products, there are other foods that contain vitamin B12, however.
According to the NHS, these include yeast extract (including Marmite), as well as some fortified breakfast cereals and soy products.