'I was diagnosed with B12 deficiency in 2008 - I now cannot remember what I ate for breakfast'

Man holding his head

A patient living with B12 deficiency since 2008 has revealed his short-term memory is shot

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Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman


Published: 14/06/2024

- 12:52

Neurological problems can be permanent if left untreated, warns the NHS

A patient living with B12 deficiency has accepted that their memory will never fully return.

The heartbreaking admission is further evidence of how little we know about B12 deficiency.


Many people are potentially deficient but there is a grey area on what that level actually is and it is possible to sit below the optimal level without experiencing symptoms.

When symptoms do appear, there can be considerable overlap with other illnesses and deficiencies. This leads to delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Man holding his head

Many people are potentially deficient but there is a grey area on what that level actually is

Getty Images

This matters because time is of the essence: if left untreated, neurological problems caused by B12 deficiency can be permanent.

One patient knows this all too well: "I had bad memory issues and now my short-term memory is damaged."

Taking to Reddit, they revealed that "I can tell you what all my childhood phone numbers were, but forgot whether or not I ate breakfast!"

The unnamed user said they were diagnosed in 2008.

They have come to accept that their memory will never fully return: "I’m pretty sure this is as good as it’s gonna get."

Is this pessimism justified?

Memory loss caused by B12 deficiency can be reversed in in some cases, research suggests.

Researchers reviewed the available evidence to determine whether vitamin B12 therapy can reverse cognitive impairment.

Head in hands

A 'small subset' of patients found vitamin B12 therapy reversed their memory loss

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The study, published in the International Psychogeriatrics, concluded that Vitamin B12 therapy does not improve cognition in patients without pre-existing deficiency.

However, a "small subset" of patients found vitamin B12 therapy reversed their memory loss.

"There is a need for large, well-resourced clinical trials to close the gaps in our current understanding of the nature of the associations of vitamin B12 insufficiency and neurodegenerative disease," the study authors added.

How B12 deficiency can lead to memory loss

B12 helps to make red blood cells. It also supports the functioning of your nervous system. When the latter becomes compromised, neurological problems can follow.

Other signs include:

  • Vision problems
  • Pins and needles
  • Loss of physical co-ordination (ataxia), which can affect your whole body and cause difficulty speaking or walking

This underlines the importance of getting treated with B12 tablets or injections as soon as possible.

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