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HomeFactsHow To Check Vitamin B12 Levels

How To Check Vitamin B12 Levels

How Do Our Top Picks Compete On Price

Testing for Vitamin B12 Deficiency (Order THESE 4 Lab Tests)

Sometimes its not the cheapest option that is the best option. We look for tests that are not just affordable, but also provide good value-for-money. LetsGetChecked offers the best value-for-money vitamin tests, with free nurse consultations, detailed reports, faster and free delivery, and prices starting at just $89.

Everlywells starting price is lower at $49, but there is no one-to-one medical consultation. However, you do get support in the form of a detailed actionable report and a free webinar, which we found to be extremely useful.

For affordable panel tests, MyLAB Box has several options, including a number of hybrid tests, which test your levels for vitamins and other key biomarkers.

Generally speaking, lab-based companies have the cheapest vitamin tests, with prices starting as low as $29 at HealthLabs and Health Testing Centers. However, with lab providers, you tend to get a very basic report and no follow-up support.

What Is Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, also called cobalamin. It belongs to the essential vitamins that is, those that your body cannot produce itself, meaning that our intake usually comes from the food we eat. Vitamin B12 is the only water-soluble vitamin that the human body can store for a long time. The vitamin comes in different forms. The active forms that work in the body are methylcobalamin and 5-adenosylcobalamin.

Does Routine Blood Work Check For Vitamin B

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Vitamin B-12, or cobalamin, assists the other seven B vitamins with converting carbohydrates to glucose to fuel your body. You need B-12 to produce RNA and DNA and maintain healthy nerve function. In conjunction with folate , B-12 creates red blood cells and S-adenosylmethionine, a compound that helps regulate mood and immune function.

Recommended Reading: What Vitamins Build Up The Immune System

How To Detect & Treat Vitamin B12 Deficiency In Older Adults

Everyone knows that vitamins and nutrition are important for health, and many older adults take a multivitamin.

But did you know that even among older persons who do this, many still end up developing a serious deficiency in one particular vitamin?

Its Vitamin B12.

If theres one vitamin that Id like all older adults and family caregivers to know more about, it would be vitamin B12.

A deficiency in any vitamin can be catastrophic for health. But vitamin B12 deficiency stands out because a) its very common experts have estimated that up to 20% of older adults may be low in this vitamin and b) its often missed by doctors.

Geriatricians also like to pay attention to vitamin B12 because a deficiency can cause or usually worsen cognitive impairment or walking problems.

But if you know the symptoms and risk factors, you can help ensure that you get a vitamin B12 deficiency detected. Treatment is safe and effective, as long as you catch the problem before permanent damage occurs. Heres what to know.

Everlywell Vitamin D And Inflammation Test

Warning Signs That You Have a B12 Deficiency

Everlywell offers a test that looks for vitamin D levels and a measure of c-reactive protein , called hs-CRP. The liver makes CRP when there is inflammation in the body.

This finger prick test allows a person to easily collect their sample and send it off to a lab for testing. Independent, board-certified doctors will review the results and explain them in easy-to-understand terms. The company then sends the results to a persons online account, which they access via a secure login.

The test costs around $100, but if a person becomes an Everlywell member, the price lowers to around $25.

LetsGetChecked offers a less extensive test for vitamin deficiencies with their Essential Vitamin Test. The test checks the blood for deficiencies of three vitamins, including:

  • vitamin D
  • vitamin B12
  • vitamin E

Once a person receives the test, they should register it on the LetsGetChecked website and follow all instructions. The home test involves a finger-prick blood sample collection that an individual will send to a lab the same day. Once received, the companys team of doctors will review the test, and the lab will send results to the person within a few days.

Individuals can order the test from the LetsGetChecked website for around $110.

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Our Top 10 Vitamin Tests Reviewed

LetsGetChecked is our #1 pick for at-home vitamin testing thank to fast results, excellent support, and a variety of tests, which includes individual and panel tests.

Screen your levels for vitamins D and B12, which are essential in maintaining a healthy immune system, skeletal and nervous systems, and generating red blood cells.

The test kit contained everything our researcher needed to collect his blood sample quickly and easily at home. Dont worry if youre a little squeamish, all you need is a finger prick sample and our test taker reported that it was totally painless.

You should be done in just a few minutes and no special shipping is required. Simply pop your samples in the discreet prepaid packaging provided and pop them in a post box near you.

We were expecting our results within 2-5 days and were pleasantly surprised that they were delivered in just 3 days after sending our samples to the lab. We found the report to be very straightforward. It lists the biomarker i.e. vitamins, along with your current levels, and whether they fit in the normal range.

If your levels are shown to be deficient you can make the necessary lifestyle changes and monitor your levels to check for improvements with LetsGetCheckeds subscription option, which can save you up to 30%.

Fasting may also be required before collecting your sample, but as you collect it in the morning, this was no major issue for our test taker.

Why Low Vitamin B12 Levels Are Common In Older Adults

To understand how low vitamin B12 levels happen in aging adults, its good to start by learning how the body usually obtains and processes this vitamin.

In nature, vitamin B12 is available to humans only in meat and dairy products. However, in modern times, you can easily get it via a supplement or multivitamin. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 micrograms. Experts have estimated that a Western diet contains 5-7 micrograms of vitamin B12, and a multivitamin often contains 12-25 micrograms.

Once you ingest vitamin B12, it is processed by acids and enzymes in the stomach and small intestine. The processed vitamin is then absorbed by the small intestine and stored in the body, especially in the liver.

This stash can actually meet the bodys needs for a few years although vitamin B12 is essential, only a tiny bit is needed every day. So if a healthy person stops taking in vitamin B12, it often takes a few years before the body runs out of it and develops symptoms.

So why does vitamin B12 deficiency particularly affect older adults?

As people get older, their ability to absorb vitamin B12 decreases. This is because aging adults often develop problems with the acids and stomach enzymes needed to process the vitamin.

Common risk factors for low vitamin B12 levels in older adults include:

· Low levels of stomach acid. This can be due to weakening of the stomach lining, or to medications that reduce stomach acid.

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Ruling Out Folate Deficiency

A deficiency of folate, the nutrient also known as folic acid or vitamin B9, good sources of which include foods like broccoli, asparagus, peas and brown rice, can cause some of the same symptoms as vitamin B12 deficiency. For this reason, a doctor will typically examine the levels of folate in blood tests when checking for vitamin B12 deficiency.

Taking a lot of folic acid can mask the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency, so in cases where folate deficiency is suspected, a doctor will usually test for vitamin B12 deficiency before prescribing medication.

Drawbacks Of Blood Tests For Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms ( how to test for it and treat it with supplements)

Some people experience symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency despite their blood tests indicating normal levels. The test measures the total amount of the vitamin in the blood, but not all of it can necessarily be used by the body. In addition, the range of normal levels may differ between laboratories.

For these reasons, healthcare practitioners will usually consider signs and symptoms, as well as the results of the blood tests when diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency.

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Discover Your Vitamin B6 B9 And B12 Levels

Your results will show you if your vitamin B6, B9, and B12 levels are within the normal range. B vitamins are important for proper function of the nervous system, immune system, and for normal development of red blood cells.

After taking this blood test for vitamin deficiency, you will get your vitamin B6, B9, and B12 levels, as well as guidance on how to improve or maintain healthy levels of these vitamins for overall wellness.

Vitamin B12 And Cancer

Vitamin B12 Blood Levels

In several large observational studies, higher blood B12 levels were linked to an increasedrisk of cancer .

Blood vitamin B12 levels dont necessarily reflect dietary intake and may result from issues such as liver damage.

Vitamin B12 Intake

Meta-analyses of 45 studies suggest an increased risk of esophageal cancer with higher vitamin B12 intake. In over 500,000 people, each 1ug/day increase in vitamin B12 intake increased the risk of esophageal cancer by 2% .

However, two other studies show the opposite. In a meta-analysis of studies of over 1.2 million people, every 10 g/d increase in vitamin B12 intake lowered the risk of pancreatic cancer by 27% .

Similarly, in another meta-analysis of 17 studies and over 10,000 people, highertotal and dietary vitamin B12 intake were associated with lower colon cancer risk .

Vitamin B12 Supplementation

In over 77k people, B12 supplement use was associated with a 40% increase in lung cancer risk among men, but not women. The risk was even higher among men who smoked .

In two studies , supplementing with folic acid + vitamin B12 increased cancer risk .

Bottom Line

Higher blood levels of vitamin B12 have been linked to an increased risk of various cancers.

The impact of dietary B12 levels is less conclusive. Some studies suggest that higher dietary B12 is beneficial.

The takeaway:

  • A balanced diet is better than supplements
  • If supplementing, do so in moderation
  • Avoid supplements if smoking

Read Also: What Vitamins Are Good For Women Over 50

Treatment For High Vitamin B

There is no upper limit for vitamin B-12 intake because consuming high levels does not cause problems. However, having naturally high levels of vitamin B-12 in the body may be a cause for concern, as it suggests a severe underlying condition. Doctors will aim to treat the underlying medical condition, rather than the elevated levels of vitamin B-12.

High Vitamin B12 Blood Levels And Diseases

Do You Have a B12 Deficiency: Quiz

Sometimes high blood levels can be attributed to serious diseases. The following mechanisms are responsible for high vitamin B12 blood values in such diseases:

  • Overproduction of haptocorrin
  • Mistaken excretion of vitamin B12
  • Release of large quantities of B12 from the bodys store in the liver
  • Production of B12 analogues through bacterial overgrowth
  • Below is a list of the most common diseases associated with very high vitamin B12 blood levels.

    Disease

    • liver cancer, primary hepatocellular carcinoma, HCC
    • Secondary liver tumours

    Bacterial overgrowth in the gut

    Increased production of B12 analogues through bacteria

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    How To Get The Best Results From A Home B12 Kit

    Here are a few tips on how to get the best results from any home blood test kit:8

    • To accurately determine deficiency or low levels of vitamin B12 you must stop taking any vitamin B12 supplements a few weeks before your test. Ask your doctor about this if it is prescribed to you.
    • You should also avoid taking biotin supplements for at least 2 days before you test again, check with your doctor if its prescribed to you
    • Follow instructions accurately for your specific blood test kit

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    How To Manage Your B

    For people with high levels of B-12, treatment involves adjusting your diet. This may mean eating less animal products like meats, dairy, and seafood.

    If youre diagnosed with a B-12 deficiency, the goal of treatment is to increase your level of vitamin B-12. Your treatment may include:

    • vitamin B-12 injection, with more frequent injections for those with severe deficiencies
    • daily vitamin B-12 supplements, such as Cyanocobalamin, which is a manmade vitamin B-12
    • regular administration of liquid B-12 through the nose
    • adhering to a diet rich in vitamin B-12

    If your B-12 deficiency is the result of an underlying medical condition, your doctor will treat that condition first.

    Diagnosis Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

    Cause of High B12 Level Without Supplementation

    A doctor will typically take the personâs medical history and perform a physical examination.

    If they suspect a vitamin B12 deficiency, they will usually request blood tests to be done. These tests can measure levels of vitamin B12 and folic acid, as well as the size and concentration of hemoglobin within the personâs red blood cells.

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    How To Prepare For The Test

    You should not eat or drink for about 6 to 8 hours before the test.

    Certain medicines may affect the results of this test. Your health care provider will tell you if you need to stop taking any medicines. DO NOT stop any medicine before talking to your provider.

    Medicines that can affect the test result include:

    • Colchicine
    • Phenytoin

    Symptoms Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

    A thorough physical examination and review of your medical history will help your doctor determine if you have vitamin B12 deficiency.

    But since no tests for vitamin B12 deficiency are 100% accurate, its important to recognize the classic symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, so that you can help your physician make an informed decision.

    Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:

    • Long-lasting fatigue
    • Painful numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
    • Sore tongue

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    Treatment Of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

    Treatment will depend on the reasons for the vitamin B12 deficiency. In most cases, having injections or taking a prescribed oral supplement will be sufficient to treat the condition.

    A doctor may recommend having high-dose injections of vitamin B12, usually in a form called hydroxocobalamin, every second day for two weeks, or until symptoms have cleared.

    If the cause of the deficiency is dietary, the doctor may advise taking a daily supplement or continuing to have injections twice a year or more, indefinitely. They may also refer the person to a dietician for advice on ways to increase vitamin B12 intake in their diet.

    In cases where the deficiency is not related to a personâs diet, it will usually be necessary to have vitamin B12 injections every three months or more frequently, for the rest of their life.

    People who have symptoms that affect their nervous system, such as pins and needles or numbness, may be referred to a hematologist for specialized management of the deficiency. It may be necessary for them to have injections every two months or more frequently, for life.

    Vitamin B12 injections typically do not have any side-effects other than a small amount of discomfort where the needle is inserted.

    Follow-up blood tests will generally be requested one to three months after starting treatment, to check that vitamin B12 levels have returned to normal. Thereafter, a doctor may advise a once-yearly follow-up test.

    Why Vitamin B12 Deficiency Is Often Missed In Aging Adults

    Vitamin B12 test stock image. Image of research, analyzing ...

    Vitamin B12 deficiency is often missed because the symptoms fatigue, anemia, neuropathy, memory problems, or walking difficulties are quite common in older adults, and can easily be caused by something else.

    Also, vitamin B12 deficiency tends to come on very slowly, so people often go through a long period of being mildly deficient. During this time, an older person might have barely noticeable symptoms, or the symptoms might be attributed to another chronic health condition.

    Still, a mild deficiency will almost always get worse over time. And even when an older adult has many other causes for fatigue or problems with mobility, its good to fix whatever aggravating factors such as a vitamin deficiency can be fixed.

    Unlike many problems that affect aging adults, vitamin B12 deficiency is quite treatable. Detection is the key then make sure the treatment plan has raised the vitamin B12 levels and kept them steady.

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    Referral To A Specialist

    You may be referred to a specialist for further tests or treatment.

    This may include:

    • a specialist in treating blood conditions if you have vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia and your GP is uncertain of the cause, you’re pregnant or symptoms suggest your nervous system has been affected
    • a specialist in conditions that affect the digestive system if your GP suspects you do not have enough vitamin B12 or folate because your digestive system is not absorbing it properly
    • a specialist in nutrition if your GP suspects you have a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency caused by a poor diet

    A dietitian can devise a personalised eating plan for you to increase the amount of vitamin B12 or folate in your diet.

    Find out more about B vitamins and folic acid for information about good sources of these vitamins.

    Page last reviewed: 23 May 2019 Next review due: 23 May 2022

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