When there are finals to study for and frat parties to attend, our health usually takes a back burner during college. Whether this happens intentionally or unintentionally, severe consequences are usually the result.
No One Worries About Vitamin Deficiencies
For many college students, the extent of our concern for nutrition extends to:
- What seems most edible at the dining hall
- Which foods can safely be prepared in a microwave
- How many restaurants deliver
- The best foods to keep you awake during a late night cram session
- The easiest things to eat while walking to class
- Whatever sops up alcohol the quickest
Even if you are the exception to the norm and actually try to eat healthy, there is still a very real possibility you aren’t doing enough.
Nutrients are complicated. They need to be consumed at certain times with certain other foods and at a certain rate each day. College students have enough to deal with—worrying about the recommended daily intake for zinc isn’t high on anyone’s to-do list.
But it’s a pretty safe bet that you will, at some point, think about vitamins. The question is…will you think about them now while you can still do something to guard your health or will you only acknowledge them when you are faced with a deficiency?
Vitamin B12 Takes the Cake
A vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common forms of nutrient shortages. This is especially true for college students.
Let’s take a look at some of the most probable reasons for a vitamin B12 deficiency in college.
- Your poor eating habits started a long time ago. For most of us, our hectic schedules started back in high school. We’ve been eating poorly for a long time. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning you need to consume it each day. However, the liver is capable of storing some of the nutrient for a short period of time.
Unfortunately, the liver can only store vitamin B12 for a maximum of five years. That means, by the time you reach college, there is a good chance your B12 levels have already been depleted.
- You’re still eating unhealthy foods. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products — beef, pork, lamb, seafood, milk, eggs, etc. It isn’t present in Ramen Noodles, Pop Tarts or Easy Mac. If your diet revolves around those things (and a microwave), you’re doing serious damage to your body.
Let’s be real. You aren’t going to snarf a steak dinner every night of the week. Even if your schedule allowed for a sit-down healthy meal on a regular basis, your wallet sure wouldn’t.
It is probably safe to say you won’t be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet alone. You’ll probably need supplementation.
There are two forms of supplementation: oral pills and vitamin injections.
Oral pills might seem like the lesser of two evils. After all, who voluntarily agrees to poke themselves? But for many, vitamin B12 injections are actually the better option.
Oral pills need to be taken once a day (sometimes twice). Vitamin B12 injections, on the other hand, are usually only a once-a-week dose. You’ll only need to remember your supplement once a week, rather than every day.
If you want to talk to someone about the different forms of supplementation, ask your doctor or campus nurse.
Fix it Now!
A vitamin B12 deficiency is only one nutrient shortage you need to worry about. If you are short on B12, you are probably missing out on other essentials too.
Technically, you should work on improving your overall health—getting enough of all the essential nutrients. But if you are only going to focus on one nutrient—make it B12.
Even a mild deficiency can seriously damage your college career. Those who don’t get enough vitamin B12 experience…
- Exhaustion (the frat parties and weekly cram sessions are tiring enough, thank you very much)
- Light-headedness (if you are walking up eight flights of stairs to get to your dorm room because someone hurled in the elevator, you don’t want to get tippy)
- Rapid heartbeat and breathing (the attractive co-ed sitting in front of you in Econ 101 is distracting enough)
- Pale skin and a sore tongue (totally not cool on the dating scene)
- Easy bruising or bleeding (unless it is Halloween, you don’t want to look like someone beat you with a baseball bat)
- Diarrhea or constipation (ew!)
If left unchecked, these issues will only get worse. Since vitamin B12 is responsible for maintaining the nervous system, you can expect to experience mental damage including depression, mania, dementia and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. We’re pretty sure those issues would put a damper on your future career.
Chances are we lost some of you when we first suggested you add one more thing to your overflowing college responsibility plate. But if you’ve stuck around this long, it means you acknowledge the possibility that your diet is pretty lousy. If so, then it is time you did something about it!