Updated 10 February 2015

Getting smarter about vitamin B deficiency

The B vitamins have important functions in the human body, and because most of them cannot be made or stored, they need to be ingested through our diet.


Did you know that pins-and-needles in your hands and feet could be a symptom of a Vitamin B deficiency, especially Vitamin B12?

There are a number of B vitamins required by the human body and they all have important functions, including the breakdown and release of energy from carbohydrates, fats and protein in food, the formation of red blood cells, and the maintenance of muscle and nerve tissue. (1)

As your body cannot make or store most B vitamins, they must be regularly ingested through your diet. (1,2) B vitamins are found in many foods including animal products, fortified cereals and breads, pulses, and fruits and vegetables.

Who is at risk of a vitamin B deficiency?

Some vitamin B deficiencies are common. (3) Up to 20 % of the general population are deficient in Vitamin B12. (4)

Vitamin B deficiencies can occur in patients who have an inadequate intake of the vitamin such as people on a restricted diet, vegetarians or people who have an overall poor diet such as alcoholics, anorexics and the elderly. (6,7,8)

Anything that interferes with the absorption of B vitamins from the intestines can also result in a B vitamin deficiency – this includes conditions such as Pernicious anaemia and inflammatory bowel disease, surgery to remove part of the stomach and certain chronic medications (e.g. diabetic or acid reflux medications). (6,7,8)

Sometimes a Vitamin B deficiency may occur because there is an increased demand for the vitamin by the body. This can occur in conditions such as overactive thyroid, when having a fever, or during strenuous exercise. (6)

What are the symptoms of a vitamin B deficiency?

Vitamins B1, B6 and B12 are particularly important for nerve health, and deficiencies of these B vitamins may lead to numbness, weakness and pins-and-needles in the hands and feet (known as peripheral neuropathy). (9)

Other symptoms include:

• Vitamin B1 – fatigue; irritability; poor memory; sleep disturbance; warm and sweaty skin; shortness of breath; swelling in the legs; confusion; abnormal eye movements; difficulty walking (6)

• Vitamin B6 – red, greasy, scaly rash; cracked mouth corners; sore red tongue; confusion; irritability; depression; paleness, fatigue and/or weakness (associated with anaemia). (8,10)

• Vitamin B12 –  constipation; weight loss; sore red tongue; difficulty walking; confusion; forgetfulness; paleness, fatigue and/or weakness (associated with anaemia). (4,10,11)

Neurobion® as a treatment for Vitamin B deficiency

Early recognition and treatment of a vitamin B deficiency is crucial as some untreated B vitamin deficiencies can result in permanent nerve damage. (4) If you suspect that you may have a vitamin B deficiency, you should visit your healthcare professional for an examination and blood tests. Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, treatment will include taking vitamin B supplements. (4)

Neurobion® has a heritage going back 50 years (12) and is indicated for the treatment of a deficiency in any of the following B vitamins: (13)

• Vitamin B1
• Vitamin B6, 
• Vitamin B12

Neurobion® Tablets are available over-the-counter at leading pharmacies. A tablet is taken once daily. (13)

For more information, please speak to your doctor or pharmacist. Symptoms may be related to another medical condition.

*Further information can be found in the package insert approved by the Medicines Regulatory Authority.

S1 Neurobion® Tablets. Each tablet contains Vitamin B1 100mg, Vitamin B6 200mg and Vitamin B12 200 µg. Reg. No.: H2487 (Act 101/1965). 

Applicant: Merck (Pty) Ltd. Reg. No.: 1970/004059/07. 1 Friesland Drive, Longmeadow Business Estate South, Modderfontein, South Africa, 1645. Tel: (011) 372 5000 / Fax: (011) 372 5252. Report adverse events to or +27 11 608 2588 (Fax Line). ZA.NEU.10.14.003

References on request.