Pernicious Anaemia Society
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Are B12 supplements safe for the elderly?

Took my Mother-in-Law to GP as she seemed very run down. GP did blood test, but when we went back for results, said everything was normal, apart from Iron anaemia. GP prescribed "Spatone" sachets. I asked for B12 result, which GP said was 204 (145-910), and therefore "in range".

I myself have Hypothyroidism, and take B12 and B-complex, but am worried about giving these to a lady who is nearly 87 years old. Advice please anyone?

p.s. Spatone has had no effect whatsoever - Mum feeling worse than ever after a month of taking them, now has pains in shoulders and going down her arms. :(

7 Replies

B12 is a water soluble vitamin, so supplements of it are considered safe. It would make sense that an 86 year old might need supplements. As we age, we lose ability to absorb B12 from food.

While 204 might be in range for the lab that ran the test, it is awfully close to the low end. If at all possible, you should bring that to the GPs attention. Your Mother in law may do just fine on supplements, but there is a chance that she could need injections of B12 instead.

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Thank you Galixie. I must say I am surprised the GP didn't comment on Mum's low B12 reading AT ALL, except to say everything was "normal". Even when I asked her for the result. (Makes me wonder what else she may have missed!)


If you can let her GP know - definitely if she has any heart problems.

Would also suggest that you pass on to your mother's GP information on how important it is to interpret B12 serum test not just on score but also on symptoms.

Having been iron deficient will have counteracted macrocytosis if the GP was expecting to see that as a sign of B12 deficiency - although this isn't one of the first symptoms to appear for about 30% of people.

Please look through the pinned posts.


Hello Jannie1957,,,,what is normal?,,,,well I use the spatone sachets,,,and they seem to be helping me,,,maybe if your mother in law took B12 as well and see how she goes,,,it might help with the iron,,,,good luck in getting things back in balance for her,,,ttfn from karen.

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GP didn't comment on Mum's low B12 reading AT ALL, except to say everything was "normal"

I learnt from bitter experience to always get paper copies of every blood test results after being told everything was normal and then finding abnormal blood results when I got copies.

The GP surgery may have online access so your mum can see her results or she could ask for copies for which there will probably be a charge per sheet.

In relation to B12 I look particularly at B12, folate, ferritin and full blood count.

In the UK, my understanding is that patients who are symptomatic for B12 deficiency are supposed to be tretaed even if their B12 levels are within range. See following documents/articles

1) BCSH Cobalamin and Folate Guidelines Click on Diagnosis of B12 and Folate Deficiency

About three quarters through the document is a diagnosis flowchart that shows the recommended process UK GPs should follow with someone who has low B12 or is symptomatic for B12 deficiency. About a quarter through document are details of UK b12 treatment.

2) BMJ B12 article See 5th summary point

Lists of b12 Deficiency Symptoms

pernicious-anaemia-society.... Click on Symptoms Checklist

I gave a copy of PAS Symptoms Checklist to my GPs with all my symptoms ticked.

B12 books

"What You Need to Know About Pernicious Anaemia and Vitamin B12 Deficiency" by Martyn Hooper.

Martyn Hooper is the chair of the PAS (pernicious Anaemia Society) and has written other books about PA and B12 deficiency as well.

"Could it Be B12" by Sally Pacholok and JJ. Stuart

UK b12 websites


An article about Who's at Risk from PA


I am not a medic just a person who has struggled to get a diagnosis.

My personal experience of the elderly and health matters is that sometimes it is diificult for them to get health problems investigated. I worry that sometimes too much is put down to "getting older" when it might be something treatable.


Sleepybunny , thank you so much for all these links! I have printed off a few for Mum-in-law, and we are seeing her GP tomorrow. You are right that it has been difficult to get her health problems investigated, for months we were told "Well, it's your age..." or "Well, you did have a major operation..."

I had to be really persistent to get MIL's bloods tested, which showed Iron deficiency. B12 test results of 204 (145-910) were not commented upon. Personally, all this has been quite difficult, as my own Mum had many of the symptoms of B12 deficiency, which I am only now learning about. Sadly, she finally developed cancer and died 2 years ago. I suppose we will never know now. Wish us luck!

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"Well, you did have a major operation."

Was nitrous oxide used in the operation?

Causes of b12 deficiency

Good luck with the appt.

If you have time before appt it might be helpful to look at the summary fbirder compiled.

Link to his sumary in third pinned post (last link on list) also link on his profile page. Lots of useful quotes from mainly Uk b12 documents. Very handy when faced with a medic who has not done their homework on b12. I take a copy with me to appts....


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