- According to the National Institute of Health, vegans and vegetarians are at a significantly greater risk of developing a Vitamin B-12 deficiency. In fact, if you’re strictly vegan, and you’re not supplementing your diet with B-12, you are likely deficient. Symptoms include lack of energy, concentration, and focus.
- Unfortunately, almost every naturally occurring dietary source of Vitamin B-12 comes from animal-based foods. Fortunately, researchers have developed technologies for producing plant-based sources from microorganisms through a fermentation process.
- Because B-12 is water soluble, its important for adults to get between 2.4 and 3 mcg per day.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for everyone. But researchers estimate that about 40% of U.S. adults are deficient in B12. And vitamin B12 deficiency isn’t just a U.S. problem.
A 2004 study concluded that it’s also a major health problem in most of the world, including Mexico and Central America, India, and most of Africa . Vitamin B12 is essential to multiple physiological processes, so having hundreds of millions of people deficient is of major concern to doctors and health professionals.
People who consume plant-based diets exclusively (vegans) are at an even greater risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency. In fact, if you’re a vegan, and you’re not supplementing your diet with vitamin B12, you are deficient. Practically every dietary source of vitamin B12 comes from animal-based foods. According to the National Institutes of Health, vegans are one of the groups who are at high risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency .
B12 is found in dairy products, eggs, fish, red meats, and poultry. In the plant kingdom, it’s found in nori seaweed and tempeh (a fermented soy product). B12 is also found in spirulina. But all three of these sources are inadequate. The B12 in spirulina isn’t bioavailable , and the concentration levels in tempeh and nori are very low.
If you were to attempt to obtain all of the vitamin B12 you needed from plant food sources, your diet would consist of tempeh and nori; every day. That might get a bit monotonous.
B12, also known as cobalamin, is water soluble, and for that reason, the body doesn’t store it. Excess amounts are eliminated through urination. Therefore, vegans need to supplement with B12 on a daily basis. The recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 is between 2.4 and 3.0 mcg/day.
Fortunately, there are plant-based sources of B12. Researchers have developed technologies for producing it from microorganisms through a fermentation process. The strains used include P. denitrificans and P. shermanii .
Some of the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Memory lapses
- Experiencing shortness of breath
- Aching muscles and joint pain
- Chronic fatigue
- Mood swings, including depression and anxiety
- Digestive problems Abnormal heart rate or palpitations
- Bleeding gums and mouth sores
Why We All Need B12
Vitamin B12 benefits numerous biological processes, which include:
B12 may improve brain health and enhance cognition
Problems with brain health and cognitive function are often associated with a loss of brain neurons, resulting in brain atrophy. B12 is believed to help prevent this loss of neurons, resulting in improved memory and concentration .
B12 may give you a boost of energy
B vitamins play an important role in the body’s production of energy. If you are vitamin B12 deficient, and if you begin supplementing with B12, you will probably notice an improvement in your energy levels .
B12 will promote skin, hair, and nails
The health of our hair, skin, and nails requires continual cell production, which is supported by B12 supplementation. It will prevent some of the conditions associated with deficiency, including skin discoloration, nail discoloration, changes in the hair, and sores outside and within the mouth .
B12 may improve mood and ease depression
B12 helps regulate the hormone, serotonin, which is responsible for regulating mood. Lower levels of B12 have been linked to mood swings, and twice the risk of developing serious depression . B12 has also been shown to be significantly effective at helping to decrease depression in patients when added to an anti-depressant regimen .
B12 helps prevent anemia
When the body becomes deficient of B12, the size of red blood cells increases, and they become less mobile . This retardation of movement causes anemia. When you become anemic, there are insufficient red blood cells available to transport oxygen to vital organs. If the deficiency is not remedied, it will cause symptoms of chronic fatigue.
B12 may improve cardiovascular health
Vitamin B12 deficiency causes an increase in the blood of an amino acid, called homocysteine. Elevated levels of homocysteine have been linked to higher risks for heart disease. Research has demonstrated that B12 helps to decrease these levels, reducing the risks of heart-related diseases .
B12 may help build stronger bones
B12 deficiency has been linked to decreased bone mineral density . Low bone mineral density makes bones weaker and more fragile, making someone more susceptible to breaks.
B12 may prevent birth defects
Studies have shown that B12 is vital to healthy fetus development. The brain and nervous system development are especially dependent on the mother’s B12 levels. B12 deficiency can result in birth defects, miscarriages, and premature births .
B12 may support eye health
When B12 lowers homocysteine levels, this also helps prevent certain vision problems, including macular degeneration .
B12 may help prevent cancer
B12 supplementation is currently being studied by researchers as a means to help lower the risk of several types of cancer. Most of the research uses B12 combined with B6. Researchers believe that B12 helps boost immune response in fighting colon, cervical, and prostate cancer.
B12 aids digestion
B12 supports gut health by helping with enzyme production which in turn promotes the optimal balance of beneficial bacteria, required for digestion and healthy metabolism.