Vitamin B12 is important for many body processes. If it’s in short supply the body won’t make as many red blood cells and they will be abnormally large. The red blood cells also won’t last for as long as they should.
If you don’t have enough red blood cells your tissues and organs may not get enough oxygen and this can lead to the symptoms of anaemia.
Anaemia can lead to heart and lung complications as the heart struggles to pump oxygen to the vital organs.
Adults with severe anaemia are at risk of developing an abnormally fast heart beat, and heart failure.
Recognising the symptoms means you can receive appropriate treatment quicker. There six signs to look out for.
According to Bupa, these are feeling very tired, breathlessness even after a little exercise, heart palpitations, headaches, a reduced appetite, and a sore mouth and tongue.
The body doesn’t make vitamin B12 but the best way to get it is from a balanced diet.
There are also specific vitamin B12-rich foods health experts recommend you eat. Holland & Barrett lists six.
Beef, pork, eggs, milk, cheese and fish are all good sources of B12. The high street health store adds: “If you are vegetarian or vegan, it may be that you aren’t able to get enough B12 as you are excluding those food groups.
“B12 can be found in some breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts.”
More specific symptoms linked to lack of vitamin B12 include yellowing of the skin, a sore, red tongue, mouth ulcers, changes or loss of some sense of touch, and feeling less pain.
The NHS warns: “See your GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia. These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test.
“It's important for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.
“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”
Alongside recommendations for changes in their diet, people with vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia may be treated by their doctor with injections of vitamin B12 or given tablets.
Another food you may want to consider adding to your diet to prevent a vitamin B12 deficiency is cottage cheese.
Dieticians of Canada says a 250ml (one cup) of cottage cheese contains 1.1 to 1.5mcg of vitamin B12.
The website adds: “Some soy and rice beverages as well as soy based meat substitutes are fortified with vitamin B12.
“To see if a product contains vitamin B12 check the nutrition facts on the food label.”