Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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Vitamin B12 is one of the body’s building blocks because it supports the nervous system and helps the formation of DNA. Prolonged B12 deficiency can therefore trigger a tsunami of problems, many of which take the form of sensory dysfunctions. Research suggests loss of smell may be a telltale sign of low B12.
A study published in the International Forum of Allergy and Rhinology sought to investigate the relationship between olfactory dysfunction and low B12 levels.
Olfactory dysfunction (OD) is defined as the reduced or distorted ability to smell during sniffing.
Thirty-nine patients with low vitamin B12 levels and 34 controls were included in the study.
All participants had detailed otorhinolaryngological examinations (the medical practice involving the ear, nose, and throat) and laboratory tests.
The Sniffin’ Stick test was used for analysis of olfactory function.
Sniffin’ Stick test is a psychophysical test that allows semi-objective assessment of the patient’s olfactory performance.
It assesses nasal chemosensory performance based on pen-like odour dispensing devices.
The two groups in the study were compared for smell test results.
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Correlations of smell test results with demographic and laboratory data were investigated in the vitamin B12-deficient group.
In the vitamin B12-deficient group, loss of smell was evident in 56.4 percent of patients, but no subjects in the control group had olfactory dysfunction.
“In this study, we showed for the first time that olfactory dysfunction may be present in patients with vitamin B12 deficiency,” the researchers concluded.
“Apart from a negative correlation of age with odour identification score, none of the other parameters studied showed correlations with olfactory dysfunction.”
Other B12 deficiency symptoms include:
- Extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Lack of energy (lethargy)
- Feeling faint
- Pale skin
- Noticeable heartbeats (palpitations)
- Hearing sounds coming from inside the body, rather than from an outside source (tinnitus)
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
How to treat B12 deficiency
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.
“A diet that includes meat, fish and dairy products usually provides enough vitamin B12, but people who do not regularly eat these foods can become deficient,” notes the NHS.
The health body continues: “People who eat a vegan diet and do not take vitamin B12 supplements or eat foods fortified with vitamin B12, are also at risk.”
It is important to note that the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK is pernicious anaemia, which is not related to your diet.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia (low red blood cell count) is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
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