Dealing With Poor B12 Absorption
Ability to absorb vitamin B12, and some people cannot absorb sufficient B12 orally. Luckily, determining your B12 levels is one of the cheapest blood work tests available, and its standard on every basic nutrient panel.
If your levels remain low despite daily use of sublinguals, your doctor may decide that injections are warranted. Since injections go straight into the muscle, they guarantee that high absorption. These injections require a prescription in the United States. But in Mexico and many other countries, you can buy hypodermic needles pre-loaded with B12 at any pharmacy without a prescription. Obviously, only people with proper medical qualifications should administer these injections.
For more information about nutrients of special interest to vegans, see our Vitamin and Supplement Guide. Also be sure to check out our Vegan Nurition Guide.
How To Get An Adequate Vitamin B12 Amount As A Vegan
Getting the recommended amount of vitamin B12 as a vegan is pretty challenging. You may not be taking vitamin B12 vegan foods or enough of them to help you hit this target. Remember that even the slightest deficit has adverse effects.
So, to achieve an adequate amount of vitamin B12 as a vegan, experts suggest eating fortified foods in two or three settings instead of one big meal. But, again, they recommend getting help from a nutritionist for better insight into the best-fortified foods with this vitamin .
Where Can You Find Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin. You can find B12 in several foods. Bacteria are what synthesize this vitamin. These bacteria are usually found in the intestines of animals or the soil.
We can see this most clearly in the results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Specifically, about 3.2 percent of adults over the age of 50 have severely low B12 levels. In addition, 20 percent of them have mild B12 deficiency.
In general, vitamin B12 deficiency is not a problem unique to vegetarians. Its a common problem for everyone.
We produce vitamin B12 in our intestines. Unfortunately, our blood cannot absorb them. Our body will eliminate them on its own.
As for wild animals, even if they only eat plants, they are not deficient in vitamin B12. The reason is that when they eat plants, they will accidentally ingest excrement and soil that contain B12. We cant all do that, can we?
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B12 Fortified Vegan Milk
An accompaniment to your B12 rich cereal is fortified milk. Many plant-based kinds of milk have added B12, which makes getting your prescribed intake that much simpler. You can add milk to your recipes or tea throughout the day, and before you are aware of
it, youve got all the B12 you require without even having to toil.
Many plant-based types of milk are fortified with B12, from almond to soy, coconut to cashew. The most environmentally friendly options are oat, soy, or rice milk so these are the ones we love. Altogether, this infers a bowl of cereal in the morning can be one of the finest b12 sources vegans can consume.
Animal Products And Vitamin B12
Animal products contain Vitamin B12, whilst most plants do not, and some people use this as an argument against veganism but things are not so clear cut.
Farmed animals are given vitamins with their feed, which is why their flesh and secretions contain B12. People who consume animal foods effectively consume recycled B12. Isnt it better to go straight to the source and just take the supplement?
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Seaweed And Fermented Foods
There is a lot of information about food containing Vitamin B12. There have been claims that certain seaweeds contain it as well as fermented foods such as miso, tempeh, kombucha and sauerkraut.
Spirulina a popular green algae powder claimed to be bursting with nutrients. This is true but it has one big problem it contains something called B12 analogues. They are compounds with a structure similar to Vitamin B12 so they bind to B12 receptors in the human body but do nothing and block access for the real B12. It can become an issue if you have spirulina every day, as it can have a negative impact on your B12 levels.
Nori seaweed that comes in sheets or as flakes to be sprinkled on meals. Research shows it may be the only non-animal source of Vitamin B12 but more data are needed to confirm this.
Fermented foods this is a broad category including tempeh, miso, natto, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut and more. Its true that the bacteria used for fermentation do produce some B12 so these foods may provide tiny amounts. However, the amounts can be so negligible that it is advised not to rely solely on these products for vitamin B12.
There are some emerging foods that may be natural B12 sources, such as a specific type of duckweed. However, they arent mass-produced yet and there isnt enough data confirming we can truly obtain enough of the vitamin from them.
Do Vegetarians And Vegans Need Vitamin Supplements
With good planning and an understanding of what makes up a healthy, balanced vegetarian and vegan diet, you can get all the nutrients your body needs to be healthy without the need for supplements.
However, if your diet isn’t planned properly, you could miss out on essential nutrients. Vegetarians need to make sure they get enough iron and vitamin B12, and vegans enough calcium, iron and vitamin B12. Women are thought to be at particular risk of iron deficiency, including those on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Some groups are advised to take vitamin supplements, regardless of whether they follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. For more information, see:
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What Are The Health Benefits Of Vitamin B12
- Protection Against Heart Disease – Adequate levels of vitamins B12, B6, and B9 have been shown to lower levels of a protein in the blood called homocysteine. Lower levels of homocysteine have been shown to improve endothelial function, which in turn may boost cardiovascular health and decrease risk of heart attacks.
- Protect and Repair DNA to Reduce Cancer Risk and Slow Aging – Absorption of vitamin B12 and Folate is essential for DNA metabolism and maintenance which helps to prevent cancer and slow aging.
- Protect Against Dementia and Cognitive Decline – Lack of vitamin B12 increases homocysteine levels, which in turn decreases the body’s ability to metabolize neurotransmitters. Due to limitations with creating long-term controlled studies in human populations, no definite link between increased vitamin B12 levels and cognitive function has been found, however, several observational studies suggest increased homocysteine levels increase the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and low levels of vitamin B12 have been associated with cognitive decline.
- Alzheimer’s Protection – A study has shown that a deficiency in Vitamin B12 and Folate can double the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Energy and Endurance – A lack of vitamin B12 will lead to anemia and weakness. Adequate levels of vitamin B12 are necessary to maintain normal energy levels. Claims of vitamin B12 as an energy or athletic enhancer remain unproven.
If Vitamin B12 Is Only Found In Plant Foods Where Do Cows Get Vitamin B12 From
Cows are not given any form of synthetic vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is naturally synthesized by bacteria that flourish in certain animals . Cows, in particular, ferment their food in 4 different stomachs as they digest it. This fermentation lets the bacteria in cows create vitamin B12, and allows cows to store any excess vitamin B12.
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Are B12 Supplements Vegan
Vitamin B12 supplements are typically vegan. The vitamin B12 itself is almost always vegan, as it is derived from bacteria rather than animals. However, some B12 supplements contain inactive animal ingredients like gelatin or shellac, making them not vegan.
Especially in the case of multivitamins, the supplement can contain various animal products.
Make sure to check the label to see if any other parts of your supplements are made from animal products.
With some ingredients in supplements, it can be hard to tell how they were sourced. There are some common ingredients in supplements, like stearic acid, which can be made from animal fat or plant-derived fat.
But at least you can rest assured that the B12 itself is vegan.
How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need
The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin B12 ranges from 0.4 to 2.8g per day. The daily value for vitamin B12 is 2.4g per day, which has been recently reduced from 6g per the USDA food labeling standards.
For the values above the amounts for children less than 12 months old is actually the adequate intake not RDA.
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Why Is Vitamin B12 Important
Did you know that Vitamin B12 is one of eight B vitamins? Yup, there are eight!
B12 is necessary for the proper formation of red blood cells, nerves and DNA. Not to mention that Vitamin B12 provides energy for everyday functions. Since it plays a role in energy production, its also crucial that athletes get enough Vitamin B12 in their diet.
A Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to a variety of problems, including anemia, tingling in the hand and feet, fatigue, memory loss, and hallucinations or paranoia.
Is It Possible To Get Vitamin B12 From Spirulina Nori Barley Grass Or Raw Foods
The answer is no! Many studies indicate that plant sources of vitamin B12 are negligible. Looking after them is a big mistake.
The body can be deficient in vitamin B12 if the body does not produce enough intrinsic factors. Another cause is not enough foods rich in vitamin B12 in the diet.
The best way to get vitamin b12 is to take a supplement or eat foods rich in vitamins. Vitamin B12 is mainly found in products of animal origin. In particular, it is abundant in meat and dairy products.
For women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, they should not rely on a plant-based diet. That can make them severely deficient in B12 and the fetus will be in danger
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Why B12 Supplements Make Sense
There are all sorts of easily-debunked arguments asserting that vegans dont need B12. Some people contend its produced by your intestines . Others claim algae or seaweed are good sources . And still other people proclaim you can satisfy your B12 requirements by not washing your vegetables
In at least a couple cases, prominent vegan authors who contributed to B12 complacency went back to eating animal products. The damage their books have done have produced ripple effects continuing to today.
Vitamin B12 In The Vegan Diet
by Reed Mangels, PhD, RDFrom Simply Vegan 5th Edition
Summary:The requirement for vitamin B12 is very low, but it is essential.Non-animal sources include Red Star Vegetarian Support Formula orT-6635+ nutritional yeast and vitamin B12 fortified soy milk. It is especiallyimportant for pregnant and lactating women, infants, and children tohave reliable sources of vitamin B12 in their diets.
VitaminB12 is needed for cell division and blood formation. Neither plantsnor animals make vitamin B12. Bacteria are responsible for producingvitamin B12. Animals get their vitamin B12 from eating foodscontaminated with vitamin B12 and then the animal becomes a source ofvitamin B12. Plant foods do not contain vitamin B12 except when theyare contaminated by microorganisms or have vitamin B12 added to them.Thus, vegans need to look to fortified foods or supplements to getvitamin B12 in their diet. Although recommendations for vitamin B12are very small, a vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious problemleading ultimately to irreversible nerve damage. Prudent vegans willinclude sources of vitamin B12 in their diets. Vitamin B12 isespecially important in pregnancy and lactation and for infants andchildren.
The RDAfor adults for vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms daily . About 2rounded teaspoons of large flake Vegetarian Support Formula nutritional yeast provides the recommended amount of vitaminB12 for adults . A number of the recipes in this book containnutritional yeast.
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How Do Vegans Get B12 Without Supplements
Many brands of nutritional yeast are fortified with B12.
B12 is added to a wide range of vegan foods. This includes products aimed at veganslike nutritional yeast, plant-based milks, and other packaged vegan foods.
Other foods like cereal, some breads, and certain brands of yoghurt are also fortified with B12.
Fortified foods are one of the best ways for vegans to get the B12 we need.
What Are Good Sources Of Protein For Vegetarians And Vegans
Most vegetarians have enough protein in their diet. Good sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans include:
- pulses and beans
- lower-fat dairy products
A variety of protein from different sources is necessary to get the right mixture of amino acids, which are used to build and repair the body’s cells.
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Whole Foods Mostly Plants
Eat whole foods, eat lots of plants, and whether you choose to eat a small amount of meat or not wont make much difference in the healthfulness of your diet.
Ethically, it makes a dramatic difference, and thats why I choose to be vegan. But arguing about whether a whole-foods based diet that includes a small amount of meat is healthier than a whole-foods, plant-based diet seems to me like a waste of time, when other factors make a bigger difference in health like nuts and seeds in the Adventist Health Study, for example.
Worse, the argument unnecessarily widens the gap between whole-food vegans and whole-food omnivores. Were both in the healthy minority, and I wish wed embrace that instead of quibbling over whose diet is healthier. Again, thats not to say there arent ethical grounds for disagreement, but if thats what the argument really comes down to, dont pretend its about health.
If you agree and Im well aware that many people dont a good place to start is with these two posts, one by me and one by Steve Kamb at Nerd Fitness. Theyre written in much the same vein, just from opposite sides of the vegan/Paleo line.
Vegetarian Diet And B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Seen in All Types of Vegetarians
June 18, 2003 — Researchers have long known that a strict vegetarian diet — one that excludes all animal products — can lead to vitamin B-12 deficiency, and possibly heart disease. Now, new research suggests that even those who follow a more lenient vegetarian diet are also at risk.
In the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, German researchers tracked 174 apparently healthy people living in Germany and the Netherlands.
They found that 92% of the vegans they studied — those who ate the strictest vegetarian diet, which shuns all animal products, including milk and eggs — had vitamin B12 deficiency. But two in three people who followed a vegetarian diet that included milk and eggs as their only animal foods also were deficient. Only 5% of those who consumed meats had vitamin B12 deficiency.
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Vitamin B12 And Vegan Diets
B12 is an exceptional vitamin. It is required in smaller amounts than any other known vitamin. Ten micrograms of B12 spread over a day appears to supply as much as the body can use. In the absence of any apparent dietary supply, deficiency symptoms usually take five years or more to develop in adults, though some people experience problems within a year. A very small number of individuals with no obvious reliable source appear to avoid clinical deficiency symptoms for twenty years or more. B12 is the only vitamin that is not recognised as being reliably supplied from a varied wholefood, plant-based diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, together with exposure to sun. Many herbivorous mammals, including cattle and sheep, absorb B12 produced by bacteria in their own digestive system. B12 is found to some extent in soil and plants. These observations have led some vegans to suggest that B12 was an issue requiring no special attention, or even an elaborate hoax. Others have proposed specific foods, including spirulina, nori, tempeh, and barley grass, as suitable non-animal sources of B12. Such claims have not stood the test of time.
Where Do We Find Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria in soil and water. Before sanitation, we used to get it from contaminated fruit and vegetables, and other plant foods.
Not only do we wash produce nowadays , but most fruit and veg are pre-washed anyway so theres not a trace of B12 left. In addition, thanks to intensive farming practices, even soil is depleted and lacking in these bacteria.
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What Is Vitamin B12 And Where Do I Get It
With New Years resolutions in their peak and the plant-based movement in full swing, its more important than ever to recognize which particular nutrients need a little extra attention if you are cutting out or cutting down on meat and / or animal products. One of these all-important nutrients is Vitamin B12.
Heres a little about Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning once consumed its carried to the bodys tissues but not stored in the body.
Its naturally present in some foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement as well as a prescription medication.
It plays a variety of roles in the body including:
- Metabolizing food and producing energy
- Producing red blood cells
- Creating DNA
- Maintaining a healthy nervous system.
- It also plays a role in keeping levels of a compound in the blood called homocysteine low if homocysteine levels are too high, your risk of cardiovascular conditions and dementia may be increased.
Without sufficient B12 we may develop intense fatigue, anemia, decreased ability to think, or depression. Though deficiency for those starting out with adequate stores may take years to develop, it can occur. In extreme cases B12 deficiency can be devastating, with cases reported of paralysis, psychosis, blindness, and even death.
But the good news is that B12 deficiency is easy to prevent!
Where do I get B12?
Foods containing Vitamin B12 :