Vitamin B12 deficiency: Pharmacist warning – do not mix B12 with popular supplement

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Speaking exclusively to is pharmacist Scott McDougall, who warned that vitamin C supplementation could be making your vitamin B12 deficiency worse. “If you take vitamin C together with vitamin B12, then the former can break down the latter in your digestive tract,” said McDougall. “This reduces your vitamin B12 absorption, [which] can cause a number of physical and psychological issues.”

McDougall pointed out that physical issues may manifest themselves as:

  • A loss of appetite
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation.

Meanwhile, psychological issues can include:

  • Depression
  • Behavioural changes
  • Loss of memory.

Vitamin C supplementation can has its uses though, as it “helps your body’s tissue to grow, develop and repair”.

McDougall added that vitamin C “can reduce the risk of chronic disease”.

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Furthermore, it can “lower your chances of getting heart issues, and even help protect your brain functions as you get older”.

Considering all the health benefits associated with vitamin C supplementation, it would not be surprising if you were still keen on taking the vitamin.

If this is the case, but you are currently treating a vitamin B12 deficiency, McDougall shares his top tip to keep you safe.

“Take vitamin C and vitamin B12 at least two hours apart,” he recommended.

This way, vitamin C supplementation has less chance of inhibiting vitamin B12 absorption.

There is, however, a risk of taking too much vitamin C, which can lead to digestive issues, kidney stones, and iron overload.

“Digestive issues caused by taking too much vitamin C include diarrhoea, flatulence and stomach pain,” said McDougall.

“Kidney stones can be formed when you have an excess of oxalate in your body.

“Vitamin C is excreted from your body as oxalate. This means that if you take too much vitamin C then you could be more likely to get kidney stones,” McDougall elaborated.

“Having too much iron stored in your body can lead to life-threatening issues, like heart problems, liver disease and diabetes,” he warned.

“Vitamin C boosts your body’s iron absorption levels, potential overloading it and increasing the risk of you developing a serious issue.”

The daily recommended allowance for vitamin C supplementation is 90mg.

Around 2,000mg is the “tolerable upper limit”, but certain medications mean that you should not be taking more than 1,000mg daily.

“It is possible for your vitamin C intake to reach toxic levels. It’s generally accepted that a dose of 11,900mg will kill 50 percent of people.”

Thus, before taking vitamin C supplements, it is wise to seek advice from your local pharmacist.

Pharmacist Scott McDougall (MPharm) is the co-founder and registered manager of The Independent Pharmacy.

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