Home Health The Diabetes Drug Metformin Linked To Vitamin B12 Deficiency

The Diabetes Drug Metformin Linked To Vitamin B12 Deficiency


Have you ever wonder what are the most important vitamins that we must bring in our body? I’m sure vitamin C, D, A will come to your mind immediately, but what about vitamin B12?

I think we often take vitamin B12 for granted but we shouldn’t, because lack of vitamin B12 in your body will greatly affect your ability to make a correct judgment about many things.

Our body can’t produce enough quantity of the vitamin B12, which is water-soluble vitamin, so in order to achieve the recommended dose we have to bring it in through supplements.

Vitamin B12 together with the other B vitamins, aid the body in the process of converting carbs into glucose and producing energy. 

Vitamin B12 boosts the creation of DNA and RNA. It also works with folate in the production of red blood cells and S-adenosyl methionine.

As we said before, vitamin B12 is very important for the nervous system because it directs the nerve impulses and produces myelin sheath, which plays an important role in protecting the nerves.

However, it’s not easy at all to detect B12 deficiency in your body. Lack of this vitamin can cause many health problems. Nerve damage can be one of them.

People who suffer from diabetes, and take metformin should be very cautious since this drug can lead to lack of vitamin B12 in the body.

Metformin and Lack of Vitamin B12

The researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NY conducted an analysis, to find out which are the effects that the metformin has on the vitamin B12. The team of researchers took into consideration the data provided from the Diabetes Prevention Program and the Diabetes Prevention Program Outcomes Study.

The data acquired by an experiment conducted on people who were taking placebo and metformin two times a day. Their levels of vitamin B12 were measured one more time after 5 and after 13 years.

According to the analysis, there was a serious difference in the levels of vitamin B12. The patients who were taking metformin had significantly lower level of vitamin B12, comparing to those patients who were taking the placebo.

Furthermore, great number of the patients who were taking the metformin were anemic, which is another symptom that shows lack of vitamin B12.

Besides all the evidence, neither the U.S Food and Drug Association nor the American Diabetes Association tell that the levels of vitamin B12 in people who use metformin should be monitored. Still, the researchers say that the patients should take things in their own hands and ask their doctors to do that.

Lack of Vitamin B12

Studies conducted from the U.S. Framingham trial showed that about 40% of the American people have vitamin B12 deficiency, which is the root to many neurological symptoms. 9% of the people experienced lack of vitamin B12 and 16% were close to the level which shows deficiency.

According to the Framingham trial, lack of vitamin B12 can occur in both old and young people. However vitamin B12 deficiency would be much more often in older people, since older people have lower level of stomach acid. And low level of stomach acid means the body is unable to absorb the vitamin B12.

Other symptoms, frequent to older people, muscle weakness, cognitive decline, loss of memory and many more, are also connected with lack of vitamin B12 in the body.

Which are the Signs of Lack of vitamin B12?

  • Anemia
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Exhaustion
  • Problems with the memory
  • Mental fogginess
  • Weakening of the muscles

Why do we often Ignore Lack of Vitamin B12 in the Body?

It’s very usual for doctors not to pay too much attention on the levels of the vitamin B12 in the body. But they should, because even the “normal” levels of the vitamin B12 may be considered as low.

The normal recommended level of vitamin B12 in the body is from 200pg/ml to 1100 pg/ml. The majority of the population has between 200-350 pg/ml and this should be considered as lack of vitamin B12.

If the levels of vitamin B12 are under 600 pg/ml, there is a possibility that you’ll experience some of the symptoms connected with vitamin B12 deficiency.

To Chris Kresser, an integrative medicine practitioner, in Japan and Europe, the level between 500-550 pg/ml can cause a lot of psychological and behavioral disorders, like cognitive decline, dementia and loss of memory.

According to the experts, who are specialists in diagnosis and treatment of vitamin B12 insufficiency, Sally Pacholok and Jeffery Stuart, those patients whose levels of vitamin B12 are lower than 450 pg/ml should undergo a treatment.

Additionally, those patients with raised holo transcobalamin, homocysteine and urinary methylmalonic acid, but normal levels of vitamin B12 should be treated too.

What are the Roles of Vitamin B12?

  • Regulation of the formation of red blood cells
  • Better food absorption
  • Normal digestion
  • Good mood
  • Iron use
  • Production of adrenal hormone
  • Helps the nervous system to function properly
  • Formation of cells and longevity
  • Mental health
  • Healthier immune system
  • Better concentration
  • Good circulation
  • Better growing of the nerves and development
  • Physical, mental and emotional energy
  • Healthy female reproductive health and healthy pregnancy

A Few More Roles of the Vitamin B12

Healthy Bones

Some researchers show that lack of vitamin B12 in the body can cause serious problems with the bones.  Low levels of vitamin B12 in the body increase the possibility of bone fractures, especially in older men. Vitamin B12 deficiency in older women can cause fast bone loss in the hips.

Cognitive and Mental Health

Lack of vitamin B12 in the body can cause some neurological disorders which lead to depression, dementia or another mental illness.

According to a Finnish study, published in the journal Neurology, if people eat more food packed with vitamin B12, there are lower possibilities that those people would develop Alzheimer’s.

Foods Which are Packed with Vitamin B12

Animal food sources are rich in vitamin B12. So, there is a high possibility that vegetarians or people who don’t consume animal products regularly, have vitamin B12 deficiency.

 Other foods packed with vitamin B12 are: organic free-range eggs, chicken, grass-fed dairy products and wild-caught Alaskan salmon.

Make sure that your children bring in a lot of vitamin B12 in their bodies, so they would not have any damaged cognitive function as adolescents.

Factors Which May Affect the Absorption of Vitamin B12

As mentioned above, as people are growing older, less hydrochloric acid, so less vitamin B12 is produced in their stomach. But whether the vitamin B12 is absorbed correctly or not depends on other factors, like:

  • Intestinal dysbiosis
  • Gut inflammation
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Exposure to nitrous oxide
  • Alcohol
  • Usage of acid-suppressing drugs and metformin

Vitamin B12 and Metformin

The Diabetes Prevention Program conducted a 3 year long study and concluded that in order to prevent development of diabetes is not necessarily to use metformin, but a few changes in your lifestyle can do you much better. Even in a follow-up study, 15 years later, the results were the same; lifestyle changes have far better effects than the use of metformin.

The participants who did some changes in their lifestyle, had 58% lower risk of developing diabetes, while those participants who were taking metformin had 31% lower risk of diabetes.

Well, now you know it. All you have to do is make a few changes in your lifestyle and reduce or completely stop the use of metformin. This way your body won’t lack the vitamin B12, because remember, the longer you use metformin, the higher the risk of vitamin B12 insufficiency.

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