6 Facts About B12 Every Vegan Should Know

Everybody needs regular and reliable sources of vitamin B12 and reputable vitamin B12 supplements or fortified foods are needed by all vegans. B12 deficiency in most vegans cause anemia, heart disease and nervous system damage. Though most vegans consume enough B12 to avoid these complications, many do not get enough to minimize the potential risk of heart disease or pregnancy related problems. The reliable vegan sources of B12 are foods fortified with B12 – including certain soy products, some plant milks and some breakfast cereals, and B12 supplements.

1. Recommended B12 Intake For Vegan


To get full benefits of vegan diet, vegans should eat fortified foods two or three times a day to get at least three micrograms of B12 a day, or take on B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms, or take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms. As B12 is absorbed in small amounts, the less frequently you obtain B12 the more B12 you need to take. There is no harm in exceeding the recommended amounts or combining more than one option.

2. Vegans And B12


As B12 is an exceptional vitamin required in small amounts than any other vitamin, ten micrograms of B12 spread over a day appears to supply as the body can use. In the absence of it, the deficiency symptoms usually take five or more years to develop, though in some cases they are experienced within a year.

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.

3. Adequate Amount Of B12


There are several methods to achieving an adequate B12 intake suiting individual preferences. Absorption of B12 varies from about 50%, for a consumption of about 1 microgram or less, to about 0.5% for doses of 1000 micrograms or above. Taking a B12 supplement containing ten micrograms or more daily provides a similar absorbed amount to consuming one microgram on three occasions through the day. 2000 micrograms of B12 consumed once a week would also provide an adequate intake. Like any supplement, it is important not to take more than required for maximum benefit. So, intakes above 5000 micrograms per week should be avoided.

4. Symptoms Of B12 Deficiency


In adults, the typical deficiency symptoms include loss of energy, tingling, numbness, reduced sensitivity to pain or pressure, blurred vision, abnormal gait, sore tongue, poor memory, confusion, hallucinations and personality changes. These symptoms often develop gradually over several months to a year before being recognised as being due to B12 deficiency and they are usually reversible on administration of B12.

Infants show more rapid onset of symptoms than adults. B12 deficiency may lead to loss of energy and appetite and failure to thrive. If not corrected promptly this can progress to coma or death. Infants are more vulnerable to permanent damage compared to adults and though some make full recovery, others show retarded development.

5. Testing B12 Status


Measurement of blood B12 level is a very unreliable test for vegans. Algae and some other plant foods contain B12 analogues than can imitate true B12 in blood tests while actually interfering with B122 metabolism. Blood counts are also unreliable as high folate intakes suppress the anaemia symptoms of B12 deficiency that can be detected by blood counts. Blood homocysteine testing and methylmalonic acid testing are considerably more reliable.

6. Experimenting With B12 Supplements


If you are an adult who is neither, pregnant nor seeking to become pregnant, and wish to test a potential B12 source that has not already been shown to be inadequate, then this can be a reasonable course of action with appropriate precautions. For your own protection, an annual B12 status check is advised.

If you are breastfeeding an infant, pregnant or seeking to become pregnant or are an adult contemplating carrying out such an experiment on a child, it is advised to not take the risk as it is unjustifiable.