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How a Multivitamin Could Help if You’re Taking a Common Blood-sugar Drug

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A multivitamin may prevent the low vitamin B-12 levels that are sometimes caused by metformin, a drug used by millions of people with diabetes.

In a study of roughly 2,500 people aged 50 or older, 16 percent of metformin takers who took no multivitamin—but only 4 percent of those who took a multi—had low or borderline B-12 blood levels. (A typical multi has 6 to 25 micrograms of B-12.)

Why that matters: a B-12 deficiency can cause anemia and irreversible nerve damage that can masquerade as dementia.


What to Do

Anyone 50 or older—and especially metformin takers—should get at least 2.4 micrograms of B-12 a day from a B-12 supplement, a multi, or a fortified food. Some older people have too little stomach acid to digest and absorb the B-12 that occurs naturally in meats, eggs, and dairy foods.

Vegans (who eat no animal foods) should also take a B-12 supplement.

Even B-12 supplements with 1,000 mcg are safe.


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Photo: © aduchinootonosama/fotolia.com.

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