Why test for vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 is a vital vitamin that is essential forblood formation and toprotect nerve cells, among other things. If you lack vitamin B12, it is highly likely that you will not even notice it for a long time. It takes years for the body’s vitamin reserves to empty. But once this happens, it can have serious health consequences.
That’s why it makes sense to check your levels of the vitamin regularly, especially for those at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, including:
- Vegetarians and vegans
Pregnant and breastfeeding women
How does the Vitamin B12 Blood Test work?
For the vitamin B12 test, take asmall blood sample from your fingertip using a lancet. The sample is sent to a specialist diagnostic laboratory in a tube via a return envelope.
The laboratory then analyses the concentration of holotranscobalamin (holo-TC) – that is, the active vitamin B12, in your blood.
What will the test results tell me?
With your detailed result report, you will receive your value of holotranscobalamin, the active form of vitamin B12. The report also helps you to classify whether your vitamin B12 level is in the optimal range – that is in the recommended reference range.
You will also receive recommendations on how to improve your vitamin B12 levels, such as a change in diet or dietary supplements.
What is holotranscobalamin?
Holotranscobalamin, also called holo-TC, is the active form of vitamin B12. In this form, the vitamin is transported through the body. Holo-TC can be detected in the blood.
Holo-TC is considered to be the measured value with which vitamin B12 deficiency can be recognised at an early stage. If the holo-TC is lower than the reference value, this is an indication that the vitamin B12 reserves are emptying and there is thus a risk of deficiency.
Doctors can also determine other parameters (MMA and homocysteine) – they usually do this to clarify whether there is a clinical vitamin B12 deficiency if the Holo-TC value is very low.
What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
- Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver for up to three years. The body can also use these reserves in the event of a deficiency. In the meantime, a deficiency usually becomes noticeable through non-specific symptoms, such as:
impaired mental and physical performance
tiredness and fatigue
headaches and difficulty concentrating
In the long run, however, a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to serious health problems. Studies suggest that it makes the following diseases more likely:
nervous disorders and depression
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, also called cobalamin. It belongs to the essential vitamins – that is, those that your body cannot produce itself, meaning that our intake usually comes from the food we eat. Vitamin B12 is the only water-soluble vitamin that the human body can store for a long time. The vitamin comes in different forms. The active forms that work in the body are methylcobalamin and 5-adenosylcobalamin.
Why do I need vitamin B12?
In the body, vitamin B12 is involved in folic acid metabolism, among other things. Folic acid also belongs to the B vitamins and works together with vitamin B12 in many places.
Vitamin B12 also plays a role in numerous other metabolic processes. Among other things, it contributes to the following key processes in the body:
Protection of nerve cells
What is a good source of vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in certain animal foods, especially offal, but also in other meats, fish, cheese and dairy products, as well as in eggs. You can cover your daily requirement with 100 grammes of tuna, 100 grammes of lamb, 100 grammes of natural yogurt or two chicken eggs, for example.
Researchers are currently investigating whether plant-based foods can also serve as a source of vitamin B12. So far, however, they have only found the vitamin in nori algae – but this in a form that the human gastrointestinal tract cannot absorb.
People who eat a vegan diet therefore currently only have the option of covering their needs with vitamin B12 supplements.
How much vitamin B12 do I need?
The recommendations on the daily requirement of vitamin B12 vary considerably in some cases. In January 2019, the German Nutrition Society adapted its recommendations and now advises adults to consume four microgrammes of vitamin B12 per day.
The US National Institutes of Health, on the other hand, recommends only 2.4 microgrammes. However, people generally have different needs – for example, depending on their age and life situation.
Food supplements must nevertheless be taken in much higher doses – also because your body can only absorb and process part of the vitamin. The general recommendation here is 500 microgrammes a day to counteract a deficiency. In the case of a severe deficiency, even significantly higher doses can be useful, which doctors sometimes administer by injection.
For whom is the test not suitable?
The cerascreen® Vitamin B12 Blood Test is not suitable for or is only partially suitable for certain groups of people:
- People with infectious diseases, like hepatitis and HIV, may not take the Vitamin B12 Deficiency Test.
- People with haemophilia should not take the test.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women should only take the Vitamin B12 Blood Test under medical supervision. The given reference ranges and recommendations do not apply to people in this group; consult your medical professional for advice concerning your test results.
- The Vitamin B12 Blood Test is not intended for children under the age of 18.
The test is not intended for diagnosing diseases. For example, if you suffer from unexplained weight loss or severe obesity, consult a doctor.