What is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

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Vitamin B12 deficiency can be caused by a range of factors in which there is an impaired capacity to absorb vitamin B12, including a variety of diagnosed diseases or conditions. For example, some people have a condition called pernicious anemia, where they cannot make intrinsic factor and as a result can’t absorb adequate amounts of B12 from food and typical dietary supplements. Severe or long-lasting pernicious anemia can damage the heart, brain, and other organs in the body. Pernicious anemia also can cause other problems, such as nerve damage, neurological problems (such as memory loss), and digestive tract problems.

Other conditions or factors in which a vitamin B12 deficiency can occur include:

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Long term use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), a commonly used type of treatment to reduce acid in the stomach
  • Chronic use of metformin, a type of treatment for diabetes.



National Institutes of Health. What is Pernicious Anemia? Accessed November 2014. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/prnanmia/.
Da Silva, Liz. Vitamin B12: No One Should Be Without It, Nutrition Issues in Gastroenterology Series, #70. Practical Gastrointerology. 2009.

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