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Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Who's at Risk?

Most people in developed countries consume plenty of vitamin B12. However, people can have problems absorbing the vitamin from their diets. People at an increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency include:
  • Strict vegetarians
  • Infants of mothers with vitamin B12 deficiencies (especially exclusively breastfed infants)
  • Older adults
  • People who have had surgery to remove parts of the digestive tract (especially the stomach or small intestines)
  • People with the following medical conditions:

Treating a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

As you might guess, taking vitamin B12 is effective for treating a deficiency. It is also effective for preventing a deficiency in people at high risk for such problems. Although it was once thought that injections were the only way to treat vitamin B12 deficiencies due to low or absent intrinsic factor, it is now known that oral forms can be just as effective as injectable forms, although much higher doses are required. Small amounts of vitamin B12 can be absorbed after oral consumption, even without any intrinsic factor. Many healthcare providers choose to initially treat with injections to build up the stores of vitamin B12 in the body and then follow with oral supplementation.
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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