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Heartburn drugs linked to vitamin deficiency

People who take Nexium, Prilosec and other medicines more prone to low B12 levels

Knocking down stomach acid may come with a cost. People with a deficiency in vitamin B12 are more likely to regularly use popular heartburn drugs than those who aren’t deficient, researchers find. The connection suggests that the drugs interfere with the digestive process that extracts the vitamin from foods.

Researchers analyzing a large database of medical records report in the Dec. 11 JAMA that taking proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, was associated with a two-thirds increase in the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. A chronic B12 shortage can lead to anemia, nerve damage and dementia.

PPIs, sold as Nexium, Prilosec and other brands, curb the stomach’s production of acid. This reduces reflux, in which stomach acid splashes up into the tender esophagus and causes heartburn.

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