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Vegan Vitamin B12 I VeganMed

Updated: May 11, 2023

Why is Vitamin B12 Important?

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a crucial vitamin most commonly found in animal products like dairy, eggs, and red meats. Being water-soluble, this vitamin is carried throughout the body to help keep nerve tissue, brain function, blood cell production, DNA synthesis, and the development of other vital functions within the human body healthy. However, a lack of this vitamin is dangerous as it can result in abnormal cognitive changes, nerve damage, motor disturbances, and megaloblastic anemia. Because vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal-derived sources, vitamin B12 deficiency is of special concern for the vegan diet.

Vitamin B12 also plays a significant role in pregnancy and breastfeeding. Because it is essential for body growth and development in babies, low vitamin B12 levels during pregnancy are associated with neural tube birth defects, anemia, low birth weight, and developmental delay in infants. If vitamin B12 deficiency is left untreated, it can lead to more severe consequences such as premature birth, miscarriages, coma, and permanent neurological damage. After birth, vitamin B12 is still supplied to infants through breast milk to provide continuing nutrition for the infant’s rapidly growing body, brain, and nervous system. Due to this, in order for babies to receive optimal development and defect prevention, higher amounts of vitamin B12 intake are important for both vegan and non-vegan mothers undergoing pregnancy or breastfeeding.

Vitamin B12 Requirements

Recommended Vitamin B12 Intake

To prevent risks that come with vitamin B12 deficiency, Table 1 reveals the recommended dietary intake of vitamin B12 as provided by the Food and Nutrition Board at the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. There is currently no maximum limit of vitamin B12 determined since its water-soluble nature makes it easily eliminated from the body and unlikely to cause adverse effects.

What are the causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

As dietary intake of vitamin B12 varies by age, lifestyle, diet, health conditions, and medications used, vitamin B12 deficiency can happen to vegans and non-vegans alike. Some common causes of Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur from:

● Increased age, bacterial infections, heavy alcohol consumption, and diets that lack animal or B12 fortified products

● Health conditions that affect the stomach, small intestine, or immune system such as atrophic gastritis, history of gastrointestinal surgery, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial infections, and pernicious anemia

● Taking medications for heartburn and diabetes as listed in Table 2 that interfere with vitamin B12 absorption

Medications that Interact with Vitamin B12

What are the symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may include:

● Weakness

● Fatigue

● Pale Skin

● Irritability

● Motor disturbances: difficulty walking

● Neurologic issues: tingling or numbness in hands, legs, or feet

● Impaired cognition and memory

● Megaloblastic anemia

If you believe you are deficient, consult your doctor as your vitamin B12 level can be determined through blood tests. Regardless of symptoms, it is recommended that everyone get their vitamin B12 levels checked at least once a year.

Vegan-Friendly Vitamin B12 Options

To ensure your body is receiving enough Vitamin B12:

● Eat more vitamin B12 fortified foods such as breakfast cereals with folic acid, fermented soybeans, soy/almond milk, marmite spreads, seaweed, dried shiitake mushrooms, and nutritional yeast.

● Take a daily supplement that contains either of the two commercially available forms of vitamin B12:

Cyanocobalamin, a synthetic vitamin B12 only found in supplements.

Methylcobalamin, a natural vitamin B12 found in supplements or food sources.

Animal-Free Vitamin B12 Supplement Options Verified by VeganMed include:

Key Takeaways

Your body needs vitamin B12. Early detection and treatment of deficiency is important. Both Cyanocobalamin and Methylcobalamin can help treat vitamin B12 deficiency for all genders and ages, including those that are pregnant or breastfeeding. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist before starting vitamin B12 supplementation as medications and health conditions may impact recommendations. Avoid vitamin B12 if you are allergic or have sensitivity to vitamin B12, cobalt, and other ingredients included in the supplement.

Co-authored by: Jeanalyn Dela Cruz


Disclaimer: The product and/or medical information provided on VeganMed is of a general nature and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or product.


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