The Importance of Supplementing With B12 On A Vegan Diet

By on June 20, 2014
The Importance of Supplementing With B12 on a Vegan Diet

The average adult needs to consume approximately 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 a day, but the average vegan consumes next to none. A vital nutrient required for brain and nerve health, as well as the creation of new blood cells, vitamin B12 is found exclusively in animal products such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. Although some fortified foods contain small amounts of B12, the only way for vegans to fulfill the daily requirement is through supplementation. Without the aid of a quality vitamin supplement, vegans and some vegetarians are at risk for developing B12 deficiency.

It is estimated that roughly 40% of all adults and 80% of vegans have plasma B12 levels low enough to cause symptoms of deficiency. This statistic is complicated by the fact that many individuals who test into the normal range still exhibit neurological symptoms. Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency may include weakness, loss of appetite, depression, fatigue, diarrhea, and a tingling or “pins and needles” sensation in the hands and feet. If left untreated, the deficiency can lead to certain forms of anemia, irreversible nerve damage, and even dementia. For this reason, it is crucial that all vegans and strict vegetarians supplement their diets with a high quality B12 supplement.

Vitamin B12 supplements are commonly found in capsule, liquid, and sublingual tablet forms, and may also be referred to as cobalamin or cyanocobalamin. While severely deficient individuals may require B12 injections, most will benefit from simply taking the supplement orally, whether alone or as part of a vitamin B complex or daily multivitamin. B vitamins are water soluble, and may be taken in high doses without side effects. However, taking large amounts of one B vitamin for extended periods of time may alter the levels of other B vitamins in the body, so consider taking your B12 as part of a complex.

If you’re a vegan or strict vegetarian, you may have adopted your new diet in order to improve your health. Without adequate supplementation, however, you may be doing just the opposite. If you wish to remove animal products from your diet, be sure to add a vitamin B12 supplement to your daily regimen for optimal health.

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