Vitamin B-12 aids several key bodily functions such as brain health, nerve functioning, and blood cell production. Vitamin B-12 deficiency though is widely prevalent. Given its importance for overall well-being, the Vitamin B-12 levels in your system need to be tracked and a test can be prescribed by a physician depending on the symptoms you exhibit.
When do you need the test?
The statistics reveal an alarming reality: 8 out of 10 Indians show deficient Vitamin B12 levels. Symptoms could include, but are not just restricted to:
- Numbness or tingling in the arms and legs
- Loss of balance
- Racing heart
- Loss of appetite
- Delirium or sudden confusion
- Dementia or loss of brain function
Doctors also prescribe the test when they suspect pernicious anaemia. The condition shows a reduction in red blood cells and occurs when your intestines cannot absorb Vitamin B-12, which is necessary for red blood cell production.
Deficiency in Vitamin B-12 levels are particularly prevalent among those who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet since the vitamin is not produced by the body and is derived from animal products. Eggs, meat, fish, and dairy are sources for Vitamin B12 rich foods. The main source of the vitamin for vegans are through Vitamin B12 supplements.
Genes too influence B-12 levels. Other causes for the vitamin deficiency include diabetes, poor Vitamin D3 intake, and higher antacid intake.
How do you prepare for a Vitamin B12 test?
It’s a fairly simple test that requires blood work. You will need to fast for about 6 – 8 hours before the test. There are some medication that could affect the results; upon your physician’s recommendation you may need to stop taking them briefly.
What do the results mean?
The normal range for the test is between 200 – 900 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL). Those with levels lower than 200 pg/mL are possibly Vitamin B12 deficient and are likely to have or develop symptoms.
Older adults with levels between 200 and 500 pg/mL may also exhibit symptoms, although the deficiency will have to be confirmed by checking the level of a substance in the blood called methylmalonic acid. A high level indicates a B12 deficiency.