How common is Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Updated at: Jan 18, 2013
How common is Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common condition and many people who have the deficiency are not even aware of it. According to studies, it is more common in older adults and increases with age. In developing countries, it starts in younger people and

Dr Poonam Sachdev
Blood DiseasesWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Jun 19, 2012

Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common condition and many having the deficiency are not even aware of it. In this condition the body has inadequate or low levels of vitamin B12. This vitamin has many essential roles in the body including production of haemoglobin in red blood cells and adequate neural production and communication. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is present in adequate amounts in certain foods. You can get enough vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods.

How common is vitamin B12 deficiency

The exact prevalence of vitamin B12 deficiency in the general population is not known. According to studies it is more common in older adults. Estimates show that about 1 in 31 adults above 51 years of age have vitamin B12 deficiency. It becomes more common with age and around 1 in 10 above the age of 75 has vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs rarely in younger people, especially in developed countries, although people who follow a strict vegan diet (a diet that only contains food from plants) may be more at risk.

Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs mostly in people who have a disease or condition in which the body is unable to absorb vitamin B12 from ingested foods, or whose  intake of foods that contain vitamin B12 is inadequate. Pernicious anaemia, (a condition in which B12 is not absorbed), the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency, affects about 1 in 10,000 people. The risk of developing B12 deficiency has probably increased because of increase in use of gastric acid–blocking agents.

In developing countries, B12 deficiency is much more common, starts at younger age and persists across the life span. Inadequate intake, because of low consumption of animal-source foods, is probably the major cause of low serum vitamin B-12 in younger adults and in people from developing countries.


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