Harvard Health Letter

News briefs: Heartburn medicine users: Watch vitamin B12 levels



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If you're a long-term user of medications for heartburn, you might want to check your vitamin B12 levels. A study in the Dec. 11, 2013, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association found that using either proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) or H2 blockers was associated with a new diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency. Prescription-only PPIs include esomeprazole (Nexium) and pantoprazole (Protonix). Some PPIs are also available over the counter, including lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec). H2 blockers include famotidine (Pepcid) and ranitidine (Zantac). PPIs and H2 blockers can interfere with absorption of vitamin B12 from food: stomach acid shakes loose the vitamin B12 in food, making it easier to absorb into the blood. Too little vitamin B12 can lead to anemia, neurological diseases, and even dementia. "If you're a longtime user of PPIs or H2 blockers, ask your doctor to check the level of vitamin B12 n your blood. If your level is low, a vitamin B12 supplement will increase it," says gastroenterologist Dr. Jacqueline Wolf, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.