2. We found low active B12 levels in 11%.
Quoted figures for UK are usually higher at 20%.
The patient on the right has vitamin B12 deficiency. Without B12 we cannot make red blood cells, nerves, or brain tissue. It leads to low energy, low mood and depression.
Low vitamin B12 has a devastating impact on the structure of the brain.
Vitamin B12 is a popular supplement as it has such a strong impact on energy levels. That said, there is no evidence that super high levels make any difference once a deficiency has been corrected.
11% equates to a whopping 5 million people walking around in the UK with a significant deficiency. B12 is a really common supplement for that reason, but if you are not testing to measure levels it still only equates to a 1:9 chance. That means that if you are taking vitamin B12 supplements without testing, then the chances are that you are wasting your money.
Vitamin B12 is essential and it can be a struggle to get enough if you are vegetarian or vegan, so it’s worth being safe and getting your levels checked.
If you have low B12 due to stomach problems affecting absorption you don’t need to have injections because you can get tablets that are absorbed by popping them under your tongue.
People who drink a lot of alcohol are at risk of deficiency. Some medications like antacids, metformin, and proton pump inhibitors all affect the absorption.
We also see a lot of small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) in clinic and this is also associated with low B12.
Active B12 versus normal B12
We measure active B12 in the blood, which is the form of B12 used by the body and is therefore the more important of the two to measure. If you have a problem converting B12 to the active from then B12 levels may be misdiagnosed. Although many studies have quoted B12 deficiency at around 20% we have found it to be 11%.
If you are worried you are low you can easily test, but remember it is better to test for active vitamin B12 rather than B12.
When choosing a supplement, pick the active form “methyl-cobalamin” or “hydroxocobalamin”. The cheap, common cyanocobalamin is poorly absorbed and less active.
Signs of low B12:
Flaky skin, white spots on your skin.
Pale lips and pale skin.
When levels are low it is really debilitating in terms of loss of concentration, memory, mood changes, fatigue, tingling hands or feet, burning feet.