Smoking is known to deplete several vitamins, including vitamin C and several of the B vitamins, but does smoking deplete B12?
How Does Smoking Deplete B12
Smoking can increase your risk of vitamin deficiency in a number of ways. In general, smokers are more likely to have poor dietary habits compared to nonsmokers, and are more at risk for deficiency based on that alone. Additionally, smokers body's use more vitamins to repair damage done by cigarettes. The free radicals in tobacco smoke will use up many antioxidants, particularly vitamin C. The Merck Manual estimates smokers need an additional 30 percent of vitamin C compared to non-smokers to account for this difference. A 2004 study published in Nutrition Journal found smokers are more likely to be deficient in:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
Clearly, smoking cigarettes can have a negative influence on nutrition, but is B12 affected? In addition to affecting vitamin intake and nutritional requirements, smoking can also influence how vitamins are assimilated and excreted, vitamin B12 especially. Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is metabolized in a similar way as cyanide. Smokers tend to have increased blood levels of cyanide from components of tobacco smoke. This parallel metabolism means that as the body fights to eliminate the elevated levels of cyanide from the system, it can excrete vitamin B12 along with the poisonous substance. At least one study has found smokers tend to have reduced blood levels of vitamin B12 and increased urinary output of the vitamin.
Fighting B12 Deficiency
The most effective way to combat vitamin deficiency brought on by smoking is to quit. Smoking not only can deplete vitamins, it can have a number of other deleterious health effects. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist about stop smoking aids, join a stop smoking support group, or call a smoking cessation hotline.
If quitting smoking is not an option for you, there are still steps you can take to minimize the harmful effects. Be sure to eat a high quality diet and take a multivitamin and mineral supplement. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you may be deficient in vitamin B12:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Heart palpitations
- Mouth sores
- Difficulty concentrating
- Menstrual problems
- Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
See your doctor about having a blood test for B12 deficiency. If you are deficient, you have a number of options, such as vitamin tablets, injections or sublingual supplements to bring your B12 levels up.
Not only does smoking deplete B12, it can deplete other nutrients in addition to reducing your quality of life and life expectancy. A good diet and proper nutrition is important, but there is no nutritional supplement you can take that will improve your health and well-being as dramatically as quitting smoking. Quitting smoking now will improve your nutritional profile, increase your energy, heighten your enjoyment of food, fresh air and sex, and will also prolong your life expectancy. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a health concern worth your consideration, but it is both transient and treatable. Many of the other long-term health implications of smoking are much less benign than a simple vitamin deficiency and significantly more difficult to treat.