Vitamin B-12 is essential for keeping your nervous system and nerve cells healthy. If you become deficient in this vitamin, you can experience many adverse effects, including tremors, numbness or muscle weakness. Certain people are at greater risk of developing a B-12 deficiency than others, so it is important to discuss your vitamin consumption with a physician to ensure you meet the recommended dietary allowance.
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Symptoms of a Deficiency
A severe deficiency of vitamin B-12 is rare, though a mild one is common. Even a mild deficiency can result in adverse effects, such as tremors associated with ataxia, or shaky movements and an unsteady gait. You may also experience spasticity, muscle weakness, impaired vision and incontinence. A deficiency can result in neurological problems like dementia, psychoses and mood swings. If left untreated, it can result in permanent neurological damage.
Risks of a Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 occurs naturally in animal foods alone, so if you do not eat these or supplement your diet with fortified foods, you run the risk of developing a vitamin B-12 deficiency. Additionally, elderly people’s bodies cannot absorb this vitamin as efficiently as those who are younger, increasing their chances of becoming deficient. Your intestines may also be unable to absorb B-12 if you have a malabsorption condition like a tapeworm infection. Finally, consuming high doses of vitamin B-9 or folic acid can mask the symptoms of a B-12 deficiency until serious neurological damage occurs.
Prevention and RDA
To avoid becoming deficient in B-12 and developing tremors, aim to get 2.4 mcg of this vitamin a day. Fish, dairy, organ meats, eggs and pork are good dietary sources of this vitamin. If you are over the age of 50, you should meet this RDA by eating fortified foods or taking supplements, since your body may not fully absorb the B-12 found in animal foods. Talk to your doctor about the type and amount of supplements you should take. She may suggest you consume a B-complex supplement, since it is typically ill-advised to take one B vitamin and not the others for an extended period.
Though vitamin B-12 is considered safe, it may interact with certain medications, such as anti-convulsants. Avoid negative interactions by telling your doctor about anything you are taking. If you believe you have a B-12 deficiency, seek medical attention to help correct this. Similarly, if you have noticed sudden tremors or other signs of a nervous system problem, see your doctor to determine the cause.