Diabetes Drug Depletes Vitamin B12

Monday, 11 Feb 2013 10:25 AM

By David Brownstein, M.D.

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Question: My doctor has prescribed Metformin for my diabetes, but I understand it can affect vitamin B12 levels. What do you recommend?

Dr. Brownstein's Answer:

Metformin is a medication that is commonly prescribed for diabetes. In 2010, there were more than 48 million prescriptions written for this drug.

However, according to a study published in BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal), for every 14 patients treated with Metformin for four years, one will have severely low vitamin B12 levels (less than 150 pmol/L). Furthermore, 1 in 9 will have moderately low vitamin B12 levels (50 to 220 pmol/L).

If you are taking Metformin, you should talk to your doctor about beginning B12 injections. Oral versions of B12 will not work with Metformin. What's more, there are other medications that interfere with B12 absorption including antibiotics and potassium supplements.

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