Eat Well, Feel Well – Are You Getting Enough Vitamin B12?

By: Rika Mansingh, Registered Dietician, B.Sc.Dietetics(UNP), PG.Dip.Diet(UKZN), DCEP(CA)

We have all had those sudden quick lapses in short term memory – Ever forget where you placed your keys? Went into a room to get an item but the item you were looking for suddenly slipped your mind? What about forgetting where you parked your car? Do these sudden brain fog experiences sound familiar? The frequency of these forgetful symptoms could be your brains way of ‘reminding’ you that you may not be getting enough Vitamin B12 (also known as Cobalamin).

Vitamin B12 (commonly found in foods such as; meat, poultry, fish, eggs, oysters, lamb and liver) plays an essential role in the normal functioning of the brain and the nervous system.  It is required to manufacture neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers in the brain) and produce the myelin sheath (the insulating layer found around nerves), which allows electrical impulses to transmit messages quickly and efficiently along nerve cells.

A lack of Vitamin B12 in your diet or poor absorption of the vitamin could cause mental fog, affect your memory and dampen your mood.  Depression is actually a common symptom of Vitamin B12 deficiency.   The role of Vitamin B12 in mental health is expanding and this valuable vitamin is now known to be vital in maintaining brain mass and preventing brain shrinkage often associated with Dementia.

Ever had a good long sleep but not rejuvenated or revitalized when you’re up? Instead of waking up well rested you find yourself feeling tired, wanting to sleep more? Sound familiar? Confusing right? It is important to note that consuming insufficient amounts of Vitamin B12 can often lead to a marked decrease in energy levels even if not sleep deprived.  Vitamin B12 helps blood carry oxygen in the body (which is essential for energy) and it is also required to form red blood cells.  A deficiency of Vitamin B12 can cause anemia, making you feel tired and lethargic.  Other symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include; weakness, light headedness, a numbness or a tingling like sensation in extremities, muscle fatigue and hair loss.

The absorption of Vitamin B12 requires intrinsic factor (produced with stomach acid).  As we get older our stomach produces less acid and insufficient amounts of intrinsic factor, making us more prone to deficiency.  Medication that decreases the secretion of stomach acid such as antacids, antihistamines, proton pump inhibitors and even some diabetes medication such as Metformin can decrease the absorption of Vitamin B12 and increase the risk of deficiency.  Alcohol and other substances are also known to deplete B vitamins including Vitamin B12, contributing to deficiencies, affecting mood and altering the memory centers in the brain, making supplementation with B vitamins essential.  Vegetarians or anyone at risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency requires supplementation with sublingual Vitamin B12 or Vitamin B12 shots.

Vitamin B12, together with other B vitamins, such as folic acid, can help keep your homocysteine levels in check.  An elevated homocysteine level is associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.

A great thought to be mindful of is – Be aware of not only what you eat but also of what you don’t eat.  Vitamin B12 deficiency is preventable and having enough Vitamin B12 in your diet can improve your memory, sharpen your mind, increase your energy and vitality and give you a greater overall sense of well being.   Food is information for the brain.  Dietary intervention from a Registered Dietitian can help you Eat well to Feel Well.  To book an appointment with Rika Mansingh, Registered Dietitian, call 778-240-5951.  You can also email Rika on

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