Vitamin B12 deficiency in the elderly can cause complaints

Many elderly people have a vitamin B12 deficiency without realizing it. This deficiency can lead to serious complaints. The deficiency does not occur because people do not get enough vitamin B12 from food, but mainly because it is not absorbed into the body. Why does this happen and what can be done to prevent it? Vitamin B12 is necessary to have sufficient resistance to diseases, but also in the case of psychological complaints, one should first check whether there is a possible deficiency of this vitamin.

  • Vitamin B12
  • Cobalamin
  • Elderly
  • Which foods contain vitamin B12
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency can be a result of
  • Blood test
  • Complaints of a vitamin B12 deficiency, especially in the nervous system
  • Therapy

Vitamin B12

Actually, we can say that vitamin B12 is one of the most important vitamins for our health and our psychological condition. About a quarter of Dutch elderly people have a vitamin B12 deficiency. Both men and women need 2.8 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day. Deficiency of this vitamin can play a role in the development of various diseases. After all, there is less resistance to infections, less vitality, serious fatigue complaints or psychological complaints. A vitamin B12 deficiency is also called Addisson Biermer’s disease.


We need vitamin B12 for the production of our red blood cells. But perhaps more importantly, we need this vitamin for a healthy nervous system. Another name for this vitamin is Cobalamin.


In America, elderly people over 50 are advised to use extra vitamin B12. After all, older people often eat less, which can cause them to develop deficiencies. Now the problem is not so much that elderly people do not get enough vitamin B12 from their diet, but there are problems with absorption. The Intrinsic factor plays a role in this. This is a protein that ensures the absorption of the vitamin into the blood, after which it enters the small intestine. In the elderly, the production of stomach acid decreases and this means that vitamin B12 can no longer be properly absorbed. Atrophic gastritis is also a cause of the vitamin being less well absorbed. Doctors even refer to vitamin B12 deficiency as a forgotten disease . People often do not even think that a vitamin B12 deficiency can be a cause of physical or psychological complaints. Young people can also develop a vitamin deficiency, but older people in particular are often victims.

Which foods contain vitamin B12

All animal products contain vitamin B12. We can think of: meat, meat products, milk, fish and eggs. The body stores and builds up a supply of vitamin B12. That is why it can sometimes take a little longer before a deficiency is discovered. For example, a glass of semi-skimmed milk contains 0.6 micrograms of B12 and a 75-gram piece of beef contains 2.5 micrograms of B12. Vegans will be wise to take extra vitamin B12 because they can easily develop deficiencies due to the lack of animal products.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be a result of

There are many reasons why vitamin B12 is not absorbed into the blood. This may be the result of:

  • Improper nutrition
  • Eating disorders
  • Vegetarianism
  • Alcoholism
  • Radiation therapy for cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Liver problems
  • Medication use

Blood test

You can ask your doctor to take a blood sample and test for a deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid. It is often thought that if the HB level in the blood is normal and therefore no anemia is detected, there is also no vitamin B12 deficiency. This is not right. Even with good HB levels, there can still be a vitamin B12 deficiency. One cannot get too much of this vitamin because the body itself excretes it through the urine. This vitamin is water soluble.

Complaints of a vitamin B12 deficiency, especially in the nervous system

Complaints of a vitamin B12 deficiency mainly include:

  • Anemia
  • Amnesia
  • tired
  • Depressed or psychotic
  • Tingling in hands
  • muscle strain
  • Coordination problems


It is important to know that it is good to start supplementing vitamin B12 in a timely manner. There are various options for treating complaints, such as: daily high doses of vitamin B12 with folic acid, directly under the tongue in the form of melting tablets. Vitamin B12 can be absorbed directly into the blood via the oral mucosa. In the past, injections were often given to allow vitamin B12 to be absorbed directly into the blood, but with lozenges this is no longer necessary. In Sweden and Canada, injections are no longer provided in 85% of all cases. In general, injections are still provided in the Netherlands that must be taken for the rest of life. Depending on the deficiency, the dose that must be supplemented will be determined by the treating physician.