Vitamin B12 deficiency most common in Indians, say dieticians

Vitamin B12 is crucial for efficient functioning of central nervous system. Its deficiency leads to lack of concentration, memory loss and weakness

Vitamin B12 Defficiency

A sizeable number of Indians are suffering from Vitamin B12 deficiency, one of the essential vitamins which help in maintaining healthy red blood cells for optimal body functioning.

It is the most common deficiencies in Indians and experts say it non-vegetarians are also prey to it.

“Vitamin B12’s deficiency is very common in India. Not just vegetarians, but nowadays there are many who eat non-vegetarian foods and still have the deficiency. This is because of absorption defects in their stomach. In such cases, patients need to take injections or supplements periodically,” said Dr Nirmal Surya, Founder Chairman and Trustee of Epilepsy Foundation.

Vitamin B12 is crucial for efficient functioning of central nervous system, which is responsible for maintaining alertness and memory recall. That’s why people with low deficiency suffer from lack of concentration, feel sad, experience memory loss and weakness.

Dr Nupur Krishnan, Clinical Nutritionist, said, “It is a myth that non-vegetarians never have Vitamin B12 deficiency. I see severe cases among non-vegetarians with border line range of the vitamin too.”

Explaining about deficiency in vegetarians, Krishnan said, “Today, 99 out of 100 people have B12, because they fear developing fat. Fat also is an important part of macronutrients, which provides energy in form of calories. If people consume enough proteins and carbohydrates and fat, then such problems won’t arise.”

Dr PP Ashok, Head of Neurology at PD Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Centre, said Vitamin B12, an essential micronutrient, plays a crucial role in formation of red blood cells and maintaining the health of nerve tissue. “Number of deficiency cases is increasing because people are becoming aware and there is no particular age group which suffers from it the most. Vitamin B12 deficiency is prevalent in all age groups,” said Ashok.

Professor and Head of Neurology at KEM Hospital in Mumbai, Dr Sangeeta Ravat, who sees at least 3 to 4 Vitamin B12 deficient patients per month says there are various factors responsible for the deficiency.

“Sometimes, body develops antibodies, which stops absorption. Then injections are required to replenish this condition. Also, unhealthy diet habits, less intake of vegetables and junk food are likely to be others reasons too.”

Dr Usha Kiran Sisodia, Head of Diet and Nutritionist Department, Nanavati Super-specialty Hospital, said, “Everyday, at least one patient with Vitamin B12 deficiency visits us. Basically, people are not eating healthy food. People should include healthy foods in diet like milk products and green vegetables.”