Psychotic features are a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 helps your body to build and maintain cells in your brain. When levels of it are low, several sinister symptoms can ensue, although the signs “may be subtle at first”.

According to health professionals at Mayo Clinic: “Vitamin deficiency anemia usually develops slowly over several months to years.”

“Signs and symptoms may be subtle at first but usually increase as the deficiency worsens.”

One group of symptoms that health professionals have spotted in patients with low vitamin B12 is psychiatric issues.

Specifically, many medical reports depict people suffering from “psychotic features”, also known as psychosis.

Psychiatric disorders are problems that affect your mood, thinking and behaviour. Depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia are also psychiatric disorders.

A study in the journal European Psychiatry – a trusted, peer-reviewed journal – concludes that psychiatric disorders due to vitamin deficiency is “more common” in elderly patients with roughly 10 to 20 percent showing signs.

The study reported the case of a 52-year-old male who “presented with psychotic features: persecutory delusions, tactile and auditory hallucinations”.

Another case report, published on PubMed, described a patient whose “chief complaints were ‘irritability, regressive behavior, apathy, crying and truancy’ which lasted for a year”.

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Fortunately, these issues may be quick to fix upon being given vitamin B12–although not all cases are the same.

The 52-year-old man in the European Psychiatry study was treated with antipsychotics and injected with vitamin B12.

The authors, A.R. Carvalho, and colleagues noted: “One week after, there was total remission of psychotic symptoms.

“In the follow-up during the next four months, psychiatry symptoms did not recur at any time.”

But one of the best ways to avoid running into any vitamin deficiency-induced problems is to eat a variety of foods, including those that contain vitamin B-12 and folate.

Mayo Clinic identifies the following foods as being “rich” in vitamin B-12:

  • Beef, liver, chicken and fish
  • Eggs
  • Fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals
  • Milk, cheese, and yogurt

And you can get plenty of folate in broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and lima beans.

Plenty of fruits including oranges, lemons, bananas, strawberries, and melons also contain folate.

Foods rich in grains like bread, cereal, pasta, and rice can help too, and so can foods like liver, kidneys, yeast, mushrooms, and peanuts.

According to the NHS, adults between the ages of 19 and 64 need roughly 1.5 micrograms per day.

Other symptoms of vitamin B12

Other symptoms that might appear alongside psychiatric problems include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, pale skin, weight loss, and irregular heartbeats.

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