Vitamin B12 deficiency - What are the risks?

Cubed tofu, yellow peas and a cup of plant-based milk

How important is vitamin B12 and what are the risks of being deficient? Well, vitamin B12 has a big role to play in the body! This unassuming vitamin is crucial for human health which means it’s super important to keep your vitamin B12 intake at healthy levels. 

The UK daily recommended intake of vitamin B12 is 1.5 µg while the European Union recommends 1 µg and the United States recommends 2.4 µg. In the average Western diet there is about 5-30 µg, of which 1-5 µg is absorbed. 

According to research, between 30% - 60% of the population could have inadequate vitamin B12 levels. Thankfully, vitamin B12 naturally occurs in animal-derived foods like meat, dairy and fish but if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you need to make sure you’re getting vitamin B12 other ways. 

Read on to find out more about the risks of vitamin B12 deficiency and why you need to make sure you’re getting enough every day.


One of the most common outcomes of vitamin B12 deficiency is exhaustion and anaemia. 

Vitamin B12 deficiency affects the bone marrow which can lead to severe anaemia. Symptoms include extreme fatigue, especially while exercising, shortness of breath, palpitations and unhealthy-looking pale skin. It’s not fun.


Vitamin B12 deficiency also increases your stroke risk. Deficiency raises the levels of plaque in the carotid artery which leads to the brain while also increasing the risk of deep vein thrombosis. 

At the same time, vitamin B12 deficiency also raises levels of homocysteine in the blood, a common amino acid that’s been found to quadruple the risk of stroke in some individuals.


There is also evidence that vitamin B12 deficiency could be linked to depression. Though research is still ongoing, studies show that treatment with vitamin B12 may help to improve symptoms of depression long-term. Higher intake of vitamin B12 has also been linked to decreased risk of depression among older adults. 


Vitamin B12 is enormously important for slowing cognitive decline. Vitamin B12 inadequacy and deficiency has been linked to a number of different cognitive diseases including dementia, Alzheimer’s and memory impairment. In children, it can also impact cognitive development and motor development.


For men, vitamin B12 deficiency has also been linked to infertility. Vitamin B12 has a role to play in semen quality, which is essential for male fertility. Research shows that vitamin B12 can increase sperm count, reduce sperm DNA damage and improve the function of the reproductive organs.

The importance of vitamin B12

It is vital that you avoid becoming vitamin B12 deficient as this can increase your risk of developing several different diseases including anemia, stroke and dementia. It’s easy to make sure you get enough vitamin B12 by taking supplements, drinking fortified plant-based milks or opting for chewable gummies with added vitamin B12!

**At Free Soul, your wellbeing is our priority, and although we pride ourselves on our expertise in women's health and wellbeing, it is important to acknowledge the individuality of each person. Features published by Free Soul are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, or replace the advice of your GP. We always recommend consulting with a healthcare provider if you encounter any health concerns, and we’ll always be here to support you so you’re never alone on your journey.