If You Are on a Plant Based Diet, You May Have This Vitamin Deficiency
This important nutrient found only in animal sources is responsible for the following crucial functions:
- Red blood cell formation
- Nerve tissue generation
- Brain development and function
- Energy production
B-12 is found naturally in animal products, such as fish, meat, eggs, and dairy. It is not usually found in plants.
Up to 15% of the population may be deficient in vitamin b-12, and vegetarians as well as their nursing infants and children are considered a group at risk of deficiency.
Having a vitamin b-12 deficiency has been shown to impair neurological development in infants nursed by vegetarian mothers. Children who are reared on vegetarian and vegan diets can also suffer impaired growth from inadequate supply of b-12.
Early signs of deficiency in adults are subtle and these include:
- lack of energy
- confusion or brain fog
These signs may easily be dismissed, or misattributed to a variety of other lifestyle factors.
What is vitamin b-12?
Vitamin b-12 is a water soluble vitamin, which means that it dissolves in water, and fat is not required to assist in its absorption.
B-12 is the largest and most structurally complicated vitamin. The different forms of b-12 are referred to collectively as cobalamins. Since b-12 contains the mineral cobalt, cobalamin is simply short for cobalt vitamin.
There are different forms of b-12?
Vitamin b-12 is often listed on nutrition labels using the suffix cobalamin. Methylcobalamin is the form of b-12 that is found naturally in foods, and is the only neurologically active form of the vitamin, and one of only two forms of b-12 that the body can use in general.
Fortified vegetarian foods typically add the synthetic form of B-12 known as cyanocobalamin. This synthetic version is dependent on other biological processes working correctly in order to be converted to a biologically active form. Digestive problems and other health issues might prevent this synthetic form of B-12 from getting converted to the active form.
No vegetarian sources of b-12?
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics warns of the risk of vitamin b-12 deficiencies in vegetarians and vegans. Vitamin b-12 is found naturally only in animal products.
Good news is on the horizon, though!
We’ve written about the awesomeness of mushrooms before, and recently b-12 has been found in varying amounts in some mushroom species, specifically in the outer peel. However, this isn’t the case for all mushrooms, and it’s too early to tell if this is a form that the body can use.
Meanwhile, if you are eating only a plant based diet, be sure that you and your family get adequate levels of vitamin b-12.
Alcohol, oral contraceptives, and digestive problems can all interfere with proper absorption and utilization of vitamin b-12, which means an even higher intake may be required.
Which b-12 supplement is best?
Talk to your health professional about the best form of vitamin b-12 for you, and how to take it (e.g. injection, oral, sublingual). For severe vitamin b-12 deficiencies, your doctor may prescribe you a series of shots.
As a dietary supplement we recommend the sublingual (under the tongue) form of b-12 known as methylcobalamin. This is a biologically active form of the vitamin, and how it is typically present in food. The sublingual method of delivery may help bypass digestive issues that might be preventing proper absorption.
If you are on a plant based diet, or not getting enough b-12, add this supplement to your regimen.