The problem of vitamin B12 deficiency in Pakistan and how to tackle it

If you’re a keen reader of food or supplement labeling, then you might have come across the term Vitamin B12. But, do you actually realize the effect of this miracle vitamin and what its absence does to your body? Probably not, right! But don’t worry; we are here to tell you all about Vitamin B12 and how Pakistanis are missing on its advantages by not consuming enough of it.

vitamin b12

A deep dive into the Vitamin B12 Sea of Information

Vitamin B12 is also called Cobalamin and it is a water-soluble vitamin that aids in the normal functioning of the brain, nervous system and also helps to form healthy blood. Vitamin B12 helps to make your DNA and Red Blood Cells. Additionally, the metabolism of every cell is dependent on Vitamin B12 as it plays a massive part in the synthesis of energy production and fatty acids. This Vitamin is found in foods such as meat, fish and other dairy products.  Moreover, it can even be synthesized in a lab!

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency

vitamin b12 deficiency

  • Pale or jaundiced skin
  • Fatigue, dizziness, and nausea
  • Disturbed and blurry vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Mood changes
  • The feeling of needle/pinprick
  • Irritability and problem reasoning with others
  • Weight loss and decreased appetite

Proof of deficiency with a study

A 2009 study by Aga Khan University was conducted on the deficiency of Vitamin B12 which causes anemia, which is a shortage of Red Blood Cells or of hemoglobin in the blood resulting in pallor or weakness. This comprehensive study was based on 220 patients aged between 1-80 years with macrocytic anemia who went through a treatment of B Vitamins at the Hematology Clinic of the Aga Khan University Hospital during the past 15 years (from January 1989 – June 2004).

This study was based on, both, vegetarian and non-vegetarian subjects and it was revealed that for the non-vegetarian group, Vitamin B12 deficiency accounted for 78.5% of the group and for vegetarians it accounted for 85%.

The study further says that Vitamin B12 is an essential dietary component for human bodies because it is required for DNA synthesis. Reasons for megaloblastic anemia being so common among Pakistani individuals could be folate and Vitamin B12 deficiencies. This study also mentions that Vitamin B12 deficiency in an urban population in Karachi is nearly 10%. This is a high figure considering that most of the Pakistani population is non-vegetarian.

The study concludes that Vitamin B12 deficiency in Pakistan is a major factor leading to megaloblastic anemia in our study population. And this can be extended to represent the wider population of Pakistan through similar studies.

Reason for Vitamin B12 deficiency in Pakistan

You are probably wondering why there is a deficiency among the people of Pakistan. Well, some of the reasons include inadequate dietary intake, over-cooking of food and poor absorption of Vitamin B 12 by the body. Contrary to general belief, Vitamin B12 insufficiency appears to be quite common among Pakistanis. The medical community should seriously consider the merit of early screening of patients (for Vitamin B12) with minor symptoms of anemia.

Foods filled to the brim with Vitamin B12

meat

Stop eating junk food, as it will do nothing but harm and instead start binging on foods rich with Vitamin B12. This will help you combat the deficiency and also make you healthy. The top foods that are filled with Vitamin B12 are:

  1. Meats including beef, chicken, and liver
  2. Seafood including trout, salmon, tuna, shellfish, mackerel, and crab
  3. Dairy and substitutes including tofu, cheese, yogurt, and low-fat/skimmed milk
  4. Eggs
  5. Fortified Cereal (Bran)

If, however, you are not a keen eater of meat or are a vegetarian then over-the-counter supplements can come to your aid and fulfill your requirements. So stop worrying, get your blood tests done and start eating foods enriched with Vitamin B12 to keep your brain and nervous system healthy!

Reference: “Vitamin B12 deficiency–a major cause of megaloblastic anemia in patients attending a tertiary care hospital” Saira Perwaiz Iqbal, Ghulam NabiKakepoto, SaleemPerwaizIqbal, The Aga Khan University