Which populations have a higher probability for neurotropic Vitamin B deficiencies?

There are groups of people whose lifestyle habits or underlying medical conditions make them more susceptible to developing a deficiency of the neurotropic B Vitamins. This could either be due to a decreased dietary intake, decreased gut absorption, increased demand by the body or increased kidney excretion. If you are one of the groups of people listed below, then speak to your healthcare provider about checking your neurotropic B Vitamin levels. 




The ability to absorb vitamins declines with age and that is why people over the age of 50 are at an increased risk of B vitamin deficiencies. 1 Other risk factor amongst the elderly include a poor dietary intake and increased demands by the body. 2,3 The elderly may also be on medications for co-existing conditions that can decrease the absorption or increase the excretion of B Vitamins. 1,4


The long-term use of certain medications can put people at risk of developing a Vitamin B deficiency. 1 These medications can decrease the absorption, deplete the body stores and increase the excretion of B Vitamins. 1,4-7 Examples include certain oral diabetic medications and medications used to treat excess acid in the stomach. 1


B Vitamins are found in a variety of plant and animal based foods. 5-7 People who follow restrictive diets that do not include a variety of plant and animal based foods may be at risk for Vitamin B deficiencies. 1,8 Examples include: • Vegans and Vegetarians 1,8 • People who eat diets high in refined carbohydrates such as white rice, white flour, white sugar 9 • Elderly who eat only a ‘tea and toast’ diet 2,3,8


People with diabetes are at increased risk for a deficiency of all three neurotropic B Vitamins. 10 Certain long-term oral diabetic medications can also decrease the absorption of Vitamin B12 and may result in a deficiency. 1 As diabetes itself can directly damage nerves in the body, diabetic patients need to be especially vigilant about detecting and managing other risk factors. 10


Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol is often associated with a poor diet, malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies, including B1, B6, and B12. 11 Not only does alcohol interfere with the dietary intake of these vitamins but it also can interfere with their absorption, storage, utilisation and excretion by the body. 11 Severe deficiencies of these neurotropic vitamins may result in nerve and tissue damage, especially in the brain. 11


Vitamin B deficiencies are common in patients infected with HIV, even in patients who do not show any symptoms of HIV. 12 This is due to decreased absorption and increased usage of the vitamins by the body. 12,13 Not only does HIV affect B Vitamin levels but studies have shown that deficiencies in these vitamins in these patients can worsen their condition and health. 12


 Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune disorder that destroys healthy stomach cells and thereby decreases stomach acid secretion. This prevents the absorption of Vitamin B12 and may lead to anaemia. 1,8  Atrophic gastritis (inflammation of the lining of the stomach) results in a low acidity level in the stomach, which impairs Vitamin B12 absorption. 1

 Parasite infection (e.g. fish tapeworm) consume the Vitamin B12 in the gut, which means there is less available for absorption. 8

 Gastric bypass surgery for weight loss in obese patients results in reduced stomach acid production and reduced Vitamin B12 absorption. 1,8
• Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and coeliac disease. Inflammation of the intestines makes it difficult to absorb food and vitamins. 1  Bacterial overgrowth in the intestines competes for the available Vitamin B12 and therefore there is less available for absorption. 1,8

Other populations at risk of nerve impairments


Sometimes symptoms of nerve impairments occur and although you visit doctors and do analysis, the cause may not be easily detected. It might be the case when there isn’t a specific one.

This condition is known as “idiopathic peripheral neuropathy”, where “idiopathic” means “of unknown cause”. Idiopathic peripheral neuropathy happens to occur in people over 60 years old; if it progresses, even slowly, it may become very disruptive to someone’s normal life.


Besides the main groups listed above, other conditions increase the risk for nerve impairment.

Let’s see some of them:


 Patients with renal impairment, failure or in dialysis;

 Medications which influence metabolism or absorption of nutrients like metformin, proton pump inhibitors, chemotherapeutics or HIV/AIDS treatments;

 Patients with gastrointestinal diseases like anorexia, diarrhea, inflammatory bowel diseases, H. pylori infections, after bariatric surgery;

 Physical injuries or trauma, such as motor vehicle accidents, falls or sports injuries. Trauma that can damage peripheral nerves;

 Malnutrition (people with limited access to food or unbalanced nutrition);

 Genetic causes (people that have a family member that suffers from neuropathy).

 Exposure to toxins and chemicals, e.g. arsenic;


You can’t feel them and often you don’t mention them.

Specific symptoms that you would not notice and which can be related to nerve impairment 

You can’t feel them and often you don’t mention them.

Specific symptoms that you would not notice and which can be related to nerve impairment 

You can’t feel them and often you don’t mention them.

Specific symptoms that you would not notice and which can be related to nerve impairment 

You can’t feel them and often you don’t mention them.



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