It is only in the past 3-4 years that awareness has built up about vitamin B12 deficiency among Indians.
Vitamin B12 is profoundly important for health. Adequate stores of the vitamin help our nerve and blood cells to function properly; this vitamin is also needed for the manufacture of DNA strands in the body. If left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to permanent nerve damage. Sanjay Chugh, a psychiatrist who practises in New Delhi, says: “Vitamin B12 deficiency is rampant in India (among men and women). The deficiency is so common that it’s the first thing I recommend for patients regardless of their psychiatric symptoms. And often when vitamin B12 deficiency is found, simple supplementation of vitamin B12 is enough to clear the symptoms such as mood swings and crying bouts.” Vitamin B12 injections are recommended when the deficiency diagnosed is severe and vitamin B12 levels have to be brought back to normal quickly. Once the levels have normalized, then vitamin B12 can be taken orally like any other vitamin supplement.
One reason why vitamin B12 deficiency is particularly common in India is that a large number of people here are vegetarians.
The laboratory analyzed samples over the past three years and found that 1 in 5 people in Chennai in the productive, 20-40 age group had vitamin B12 deficiency and of the 16,000 samples tested for vitamin D deficiency, 14,000 were found positive.