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B12 Deficiency: Does It Cause Weight Gain?

B12 Deficiency: Does It Cause Weight Gain?

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A number of recent studies have indicated a link between low levels of vitamin B12 and obesity. Many may wonder about the cause and effect relationship between these two variables. Does B12 deficiency lead to higher rates of obesity or is obesity a cause for low B12 levels? To get a better idea, let’s take a closer look at what vitamin B12 is, its role in bodily functions and some ways it may affect weight. 

What Is B12? 

Less commonly known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. It has a significant impact on numerous bodily processes. B12 is involved in energy production, the creation of red blood cells and DNA formation. It’s also an essential component of healthy brain function, heart health and nervous system activity. 

It’s easy to see that a B12 deficiency can be quite problematic. Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products. You can also get it through fortified foods and supplements. Older adults, vegans and those with certain medical or digestive issues may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, as could smokers and people who abuse alcohol. Medications such as antacids and proton pump inhibitors can also inhibit B12 absorption. 

Vitamin B12 Within the Body

A number of things must be in place for effective B12 absorption to occur. You need to have a properly functioning gut, stomach and pancreas. In addition, sufficient levels of a protein that binds to B12 within the stomach, known as intrinsic factor, are necessary. Daily requirements of B12 are rather small. 

You can lose tiny amounts through sweat, urine and stool. Due to the incremental nature of vitamin B12 loss, you may not notice an actual deficiency until your intake has been lacking for up to a year. 

Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Disorientation
  • Heart palpitations
  • Incontinence 
  • Insomnia
  • Impaired memory
  • Loss of concentration
  • Mood changes
  • Poor balance
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tingling or numbness of the extremities

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing a combination of these. 

Vitamin B12, Body Fat and Metabolism

There have been a number of studies regarding vitamin B12 levels and obesity. Many indicate an inverse association between the two, meaning that they have found that individuals with low levels of B12 were often more likely to be obese. Some research studied the vitamin B12 levels of obese individuals. Others showed the effects that B12 supplements had on levels of B12. Most studies were observational in nature, indicating the need for more research in order to be conclusive. 

Other studies focused on the relation between vitamin B12 and metabolism. Studies have shown that B12 may play a role in the metabolism and accumulation of fat. Additional research will be needed in order to reach a definitive conclusion regarding B12’s effect on metabolism and body fat. 

Obesity is a risk factor of metabolic disorders like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. So, it makes sense that researchers would show an interest in whether B12 levels might contribute to these conditions. 

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Considerations Regarding B12 and Obesity

It is clear that more research and study will be necessary to make any conclusions about the relationship between vitamin B12 and obesity. So far, though, it appears that there is a connection. 

Does B12 deficiency cause obesity, or does obesity cause B12 deficiency? It seems safe to say that the two factors have an impact on each other. Therefore, it’s probably wise to take steps to attend to your B12 levels and your overall health status. 

You can start by having your B12 levels checked. Your physician can examine your lab results and provide recommendations such as eating foods high in B12 or adding supplements to your diet. Food sources to consider include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products. Breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and plant-based milks are also fortified with vitamin B12. Supplements come in a variety of forms like capsules, tablets, liquids and lozenges. 

You can also ask about adding healthy lifestyle practices such as improving your diet and exercising. A number of health benefits can be derived from these practices, including lowering your potential risk of the aforementioned metabolic health conditions. Your physician will advise you on which forms of exercise are recommended for your particular circumstances, as well as dietary recommendations.