Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: The signs in your hair you could be lacking the vitamin

Vitamin B12 is one of a number of B vitamins which is vital for healthy function of the body. It helps with the production of red blood cells, helps keep the nervous system healthy, processes folic acid and helps break down and releases energy from food.

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If a person lacks B12, their red blood cell count will be lower and their nerves stand risk of becoming damaged. Left untreated, it can lead to complications with the heart.

People can be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency for a number of reasons – one being diet.

Vitamin B12 is best gained from foods of an animal origin, so some vegans and vegetarians may not get enough.

Certain medical conditions can also affect a person’s vitamin b12 absorption from foods, such as pernicious anaemia.

To avoid complications of vitamin B12 deficiency, spotting symptoms of the condition is important. And some signs of the condition have been linked to a person’s hair.

According to studies, if you’ve noticed your hair turning more grey, it could be a sign you’re deficient in B12.

A 2016 study reported in the International Journal of Trichology looked to factors related to premature praying in young Indians under the age of 25.

It found low levels of vitamin B12 were common in participants with premature hair greying, alongside low levels of serum ferritin, which stores iron in the body, and good cholesterol.

A 2015 report published in the journal Development noted various deficiency studies, including vitamin b12 deficiency, and the connection to greying hair.

It found nutritional deficiencies affect pigmentation, suggesting colour can return with vitamin supplementation.

Of course, vitamin B12 deficiency isn’t always the cause of grey hair.

Grey hair is also an inevitable part of ageing, and by the age of 30 most people have a few grey hairs.

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Genetics can play a big factor in when a person turns grey.

Some experts also believe vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to hair loss.

Philip Kingsley advises: “Hair needs a mixture of both vitamins and minerals to grow, vitamin B12 is one of these essential vitamins.

“Vitamin B12 is an essential water soluble B Vitamin. It helps to keep your body’s nerves functioning efficiently, plays an important role in DNA production, and, importantly for your hair, helps to keep your red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your tissues, healthy.”

It adds: “Vitamin b12 deficiency symptoms are similar to iron deficiency anaemia and include unusual tiredness, lethargy, pallor and diffuse hair loss from the scalp.”

Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

Other symptoms of the condition are listed by Bupa as:

  • Feeling very tired
  • Breathlessness even after little exercise
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • A reduced appetite
  • A sore mouth and tongue

The health organisation adds: “If you have vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, you may also look pale or jaundiced (have a yellowy tinge to your skin and the whites of your eyes).

“As well as the symptoms of anaemia, vitamin B12-deficiency may cause symptoms related to your nerves. This is called vitamin B12 neuropathy. It may affect your movement and sensation, especially in your legs, cause numbness or pins and needles and decrease your sensitivity to touch, vibration or pain. It can also cause confusion, depression, poor concentration and forgetfulness.

“These symptoms aren’t always due to vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, but if you have them see your GP.”

If a person isn’t getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet they may be advised by a GP to eat more foods fortified with vitamin B12 or to take regular supplements.

Vitamin B12 injections may also be recommended, and for those with pernicious anaemia, injections may be required for the rest of their lives.

Experts say adults aged 19 to 64 require around 1.5 micrograms a day of vitamin B12, and unless you have pernicious anaemia, you should be able to get this through your diet.

If vitamin B12 deficiency is triggered by not including enough B12 foods in the diet, Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, offers the “A list of B12 foods” on its website. 

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