Vitamin B12 alongside folate is vital for the formation of red blood cells and its also important for nerve health.
Because red blood cells contain the protein haemoglobin, whose primary role is to transport oxygen around the body, low vitamin B12 levels can result in fewer red blood cells or a low amount of haemoglobin. Reduced levels of B12 can therefore lead to fatigue, lethargy, and feelings of weakness.
Our vitamin B12 blood test measures active B12 rather than total B12 and is the most accurate way of measuring your available level of vitamin B12. An active B12 test is the best early indicator of possible deficiency because it measures the total amount of B12 available for your body to use. The human body can store enough vitamin B12 to last a few years but certain groups are at a greater risk of deficiency because their stores will be depleted or they may have issues absorbing it from their diet.
Prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anaemia, so spotting it early can help prevent this.
Vitamin B12 is mostly found in meat as well as chicken and fish so vegans and vegetarians are at a greater risk of vitamin deficiencies including B12. Therefore, a vegan or vegetarian diet must be planned appropriately, which may mean eating fortified foods 2-3 times per day or by taking a vitamin B12 supplement.
Older people are also at an increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency and a folate deficiency, possibly due to poor dietary intake.
Vitamin B12 is one of the nutrients required to make red blood cells. Low levels can lead to a decrease in red blood cell production and potentially anaemia and also an increase in red blood cell size. Vitamin B12 is also important for neurological function. Testing blood levels of vitamin B12 can help detect low levels that need addressing whether through diet or supplementation if a vegetarian or vegan.
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Active B12 is the total amount of vitamin B12 available for use within your body. It is essential for the development of red blood cells as well as DNA. It also has important roles in nerve function.
The vitamin B12 test will show if your active vitamin B12 levels are above the minimum normal range of 37.5 pmol/L.
Low vitamin B12 levels can cause:
If you eat a healthy, balanced diet you should acquire all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly. However, someone who is on a vegan or vegetarian diet might need to take a vitamin B12 supplement, particularly because most of the vitamin comes from animal-based sources. There are some vitamin B12 fortified sources but these may be limited.
You can check vitamin B12 levels using our at-home vitamin B12 test kit. Our test enables you to check your active B12 levels quickly, easily, and affordably. Simply send your sample direct to our UKAS accredited lab and your accurate result will be available within 48hrs on our secure digital dashboard.
Active B12 is best way to test B12 as it only measures the form of vitamin B12 that is available to be used by the body. A total B12 test, which is the standard test offered by the NHS, measures the total amount of both active and inactive B12.
The problem with testing for total B12 is that the test may show as normal but mask low levels of active B12. Active B12 typically makes up around 10% to 30% of B12 in the body.
Generally, high levels of vitamin B12 are not considered to be toxic which is why there isn’t an upper range. Very high levels are rare but are seen in some types of leukaemia or liver disease.
The human body doesn’t make vitamin B12 which makes it an essential vitamin. That means it must be absorbed through the diet or by taking a supplement.
So, the best way to naturally increase your vitamin B12 levels is to eat a wide variety of foods and be sure to incorporate some rich B12 sources.
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