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question

Who is at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency?

Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy
answer
People at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency are those who either don't consume foods that contain this nutrient or who cannot absorb the nutrient from the foods they eat because of a medical condition, interactions with medications or another reason.

Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in foods that come from animals, including meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. It is also found in some foods that are fortified with it, including some breakfast cereals, some soymilk and some yeasts. People who consume a vegan or strict vegetarian diet may be at higher risk for vitamin B12 deficiency than people who consume animal products.

Some medical conditions (including Crohn's disease, celiac disease and pernicious anemia) may decrease your body's ability to absorb vitamin B12 from foods and increase your risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. People over age 50 are also at greater risk for vitamin B12 deficiency than younger people because with age the body may make less stomach acid, which is necessary for normal vitamin B12 absorption.

Taking certain medications for long periods of time also raises your risk for vitamin B12 deficiency by interfering with normal absorption of the nutrient. Those medications include some antibiotics, antiseizure medications, cholesterol-lowering drugs, chemotherapy drugs, antacids and peptic ulcer medications, glucophage (Metformin) for diabetes, and others.

Talk to your doctor about whether you might be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. A simple blood test can measure your level of vitamin B12. If you are deficient, taking supplements of this nutrient may bring your level back to normal.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.