• Shruti GOCHHWAL

Why Are D3 and B12 Deficiencies So Common?

The US is perhaps the only country in the world, where just one meal can contain a massive 4,000 calories, and no one bats an eyelid. That is close to twice your caloric need for an entire day! 

Along with the soaring obesity rates, this makes it hard to believe that they could suffer from any sort of nutritional deficiencies. 

However, this is a typical case of quantity over quality. Despite consuming a lot, since most of it is junk or unhealthy food, there has been an increase in vitamin deficiencies – among the most common ones are vitamin B12 (cobalamin) and vitamin D3 deficiencies. 

In fact, D3 and B12 deficiencies are common all over the world, including India.

In tropical countries, nutritional deficiencies are the most common cause of anaemia. Deficiencies of vitamin B12 and vitamin D3 can cause severe cytopenia and anaemia due to feeble hematopoiesis and can sometimes reflect hemolytic anaemia. 

Also, megaloblastic anaemia, presenting solely as fever, can be witnessed in only a small portion of cases and is poorly characterized. This aetiology can often be missed and delay the diagnosis, if not actively looked for, in cases of fever with unknown origin.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Large surveys indicate that close to 8 percent of the population under the age of 60 suffers from vitamin B12 deficiency and that the occurrence of vitamin B12 deficiency increases with age. 

It also shows that approximately 30 percent of those in old age have marginal statuses for this vitamin deficiency.

How to Recognize a Vitamin B 12 Deficiency?

Caption: The hand of a person suffering from anaemia(L) versus a normal hand Credits: Ayurvedabansko

Vitamin B12 is required by the human body to make red blood cells. Thus, a deficiency of this vitamin results in a low red blood cell count – this deficiency is known as anaemia. 

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include low energy levels, fatigue, shortness of breath, problems concentrating, loss of appetite and bleeding gums. 

If prolonged, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage which can lead to numbness, tingling of the hands and feet and even loss of balance. 

However, vitamin B12 deficiency does not always have symptoms and usually, a blood test is required for a definite diagnosis.

Vitamin D3 Deficiency

Vitamin D is of two types – vitamin D2 and vitamin D3; vitamin D3, also known as cholecalciferol is the recommended form of vitamin D as it is the natural form that our bodies absorb from sunlight. 

Caption: Sunlight is an important source of Vitamin D3 Credits: Healthydeals

Vitamin D3 deficiency is common in the US population, with a gross prevalence rate of 38 percent with few population groups also showing a gross prevalence rate as high as 79 percent! 

Vitamin D3 deficiency has been linked to chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease and thus is a serious problem.

How to Recognize Vitamin D3 Deficiency?

Usually, in most cases, vitamin D deficiency does not cause any notable symptoms. Some people with vitamin D deficiency may experience muscle weakness, fatigue as well as muscle pain. 

In rare cases of severe prolonged vitamin D deficiency, people may notice brittle, thin or misshaped bones. Children with vitamin D deficiency may suffer from diseases such as osteomalacia (softening of the bones) and rickets. 

A blood test may be necessary for a definite diagnosis, in cases where doctors suspect vitamin D deficiency.

How to Combat Vitamin B 12 and Vitamin D3 Deficiency

In most cases of nutritional inadequacies, individuals are advised by their doctors to cut down on junk food and increase their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Sheep meat and hamburger are superb sources, while turkey and chicken are acceptable sources of vitamin B12. 

However, keep in mind that handled meat has lower nutrient content, so opt for natural meats. 

Likewise, expand your fish consumption – seafood has the highest vitamin B12 content with salmon, sardines and tuna being the best sources of vitamin B12.

Caption: Seafood contains a lot of vitamin D12 Credits: Pixabay

Our body produces vitamin D3 in the presence of sunlight, so being indoors all the time can lead to vitamin D deficiency. 

While investing more energy outside will assist with treating and forestall nutrient D inadequacy, you ought to likewise expand your admission of nutrient D rich nourishments. 

Fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon are superb sources of vitamin D3. Cheese, beef liver, and egg yolks also have modest amounts of vitamin D3 and can be included in the diet for deficient individuals.

The current interventional and cross-sectional study was conducted to assess the occurrence of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency in male office-goers in the tropical city of Mumbai, India. 

An aggregate of 65 senior executives was assessed and subjected to analysis of blood levels of vitamin B12 by CLIA method and vitamin D (25 Hydroxy Cholecalciferol) by RIA method. 

A similar survey was carried out in a reputed analytical laboratory with NABL accreditation. History of exposure to sunlight, smoking, dietary habits, exercise, medication, consumption of vitamin supplements, etc. was obtained.

The results revealed 25% of executives with vitamin D deficiency (less than 7.5 ng/ml) and 75% officials with vitamin B12 deficiency (less than 195 pg./ml). 

The prevalence of lesser levels of vitamin B12 is lower (58%) in those who had a history of regular exercise than others. 

Similarly, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is lesser (25%) in those who had a history of regular exercise than in others (46.2%). 

Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency is higher (47%) in those whose workday began earlier than in those whose workday started later (12%).

All officials travelled to their offices in cars with sun film on the windowpanes and spent close to 9-10 hours at work, indoors in a building, which had sunscreens on window panels.

  1. Of the individuals who did no physical exercises, 58.4% were deficient in vitamin D3 whereas 41.6% had values ranging between 7 to 20 ng. Also, all of them were deficient in vitamin B12.

Of the vitamin D deficient individuals, 47% did indoor exercises and 53% did not exercise at all, thus hardly exposing themselves to any sunlight. 

Viability of oral supplementation of vitamin B12 and D3 is exhibited by the results of the second phase of the survey. Dietary modification, sun exposure and reduction in alcohol consumption were also effective. 

To facilitate vitamin D3 absorption, office executives need to exercise outdoors and thus can increase their exposure to sunlight.

The rate of vitamin B12 deficiency is observed to be high, in people who predominantly consume vegetarian diets resulting in insufficient consumption of poultry, dairy products and meat.

We now know that vitamin B12 and D3 deficiency is a worldwide health problem. In India, as food fortification is inadequate, supplementation with pharmaceutical arrangements is the only way for the treatment of vitamin D deficiency. 

The typical treatment regime for vitamin D3 deficiency is 60000 IU capsules weekly for eight weeks.

Studies have shown that daily oral supplements of up to 2,000 mcg (2 mg) are effective and safe in treating vitamin B12 deficiency. 

Takeaway

Vitamin supplements may aid in treating vitamin deficiencies, but the sole way to prevent them from recurring is through a balanced diet that includes plenty of healthy foods such as nuts, fish, and vegetables, which often lack in our diet. Moving towards a holistic lifestyle and diet will help you prevent diseases, allowing you to enjoy better mental and physical health. So, from this day forward change your diet, lifestyle, and regular supplementation, as they are key to curb the vitamin B12 and vitamin D3 deficiency pandemic.

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