Vitamin B Deficiency: Risk Groups

A vitamin B deficiency often only becomes apparent after years. Here you can find out who is particularly susceptible to an insufficient supply of vitamins and what the causes are.

Before a pronounced vitamin B deficiency occurs, typical symptoms of fatigue syndrome (CFS) first appear. This clinical picture – also known as fatigue – is characterized by:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • headache
  • lack of energy
  • persistent fatigue
  • Depression.

The early diagnosis of a vitamin B deficiency makes it possible to find suitable measures to effectively alleviate the symptoms and to avoid long-term effects (e.g. wound healing disorders, inflammation, paralysis). Patients who belong to a certain risk group should therefore have a blood test carried out by their doctor in good time.

Vitamin B deficiency in the elderly

Elderly patients in particular have an increased risk of vitamin B deficiency. According to the nutrition report of the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), every tenth nursing home resident in Germany over the age of 65 is chronically malnourished.

The main causes of an increased risk of vitamin B deficiency include:

  • Physical changes (indigestion),
  • Taking medication for typical age-related diseases (e.g. gout, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes),
  • long-term use of proton pump inhibitors, antacids (medicines used to neutralize food), or antihistamines
  • reduced food intake due to chewing or swallowing problems,
  • Loss of vitamins due to an unbalanced diet
  • (Tumor) diseases and taking medication that reduces appetite or negatively affects the absorption of nutrients.

Vitamin B deficiency in people with special diets

Groups of people with an increased risk of vitamin B deficiency are:

  • Vegans and vegetarians (vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products),
  • Patients who frequently go on restriction diets (restricting calories to lose weight) or suffer from anorexia.

Vitamin B deficiency due to life circumstances

  • Women during pregnancy and breastfeeding (increased vitamin B requirement),
  • Alcoholics (alcohol can affect the intestines and thus reduce absorption capacity),
  • heavy smokers (metabolism of vitamin B12 is disturbed).

Vitamin B deficiency in chronically stressed individuals

With chronic stress, the need for vitamins increases sharply. Because: In stressful situations, the body releases more of the messenger substances norepinephrine and cortisol. Due to the high release of these neurotransmitters, there is an increased turnover of the B vitamins. If the supply is insufficient, a deficiency occurs, which in turn can lead to an increase in stress symptoms.

In addition, chronically stressed people in particular eat unhealthily. Studies show that, for example, nicotine consumption and increased alcohol consumption can lead to vitamin B deficiency. In addition, proton pump inhibitors, antihistamines, or antacids are often used in stress-related inflammation of the gastric mucosa. These drugs cause a lack of vitamin absorption.

People who are under severe psychological stress are particularly affected by a vitamin B deficiency:

  • Employees with high professional demands
  • working mothers,
  • caring relatives,
  • depressed patients.

Vitamin B deficiency in patients with gastrointestinal disorders

Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract can severely impede the absorption of vitamin B12. Responsible for this is the body’s own so-called intrinsic factor in the stomach, a transport protein that is significantly involved in the absorption of vitamin B12. Inflammation of the gastric mucosa in particular can lead to reduced formation of the intrinsic factor, which can result in insufficient absorption of vitamin B12 in the gastrointestinal tract.

Possible diseases for a vitamin B12 absorption disorder include:

  • gastritis due to Helicobacter pylori infection,
  • autoimmune diseases
  • Stomach and bowel resections (partial removal of an organ or section of tissue)
  • Pancreatic insufficiency and diseases of the small intestine (e.g. Crohn’s disease),
  • kidney diseases
  • tumor diseases

Side effects of chemotherapy (e.g. inflammation of the mucous membranes, vomiting, and diarrhea) lead to reduced vitamin B absorption. Difficulty swallowing, nausea and reduced appetite also cause an insufficient supply of vitamins.

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Written by Tracy Norris

My name is Tracy and I am a food media superstar, specializing in freelance recipe development, editing, and food writing. In my career, I have been featured on many food blogs, constructed personalized meal plans for busy families, edited food blogs/cookbooks, and developed multicultural recipes for many reputable food companies. Creating recipes that are 100% original is my favorite part of my job.

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