- by Portea HomeCare
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- Mar 14 2017
Why Should Every Vegan Consume Vitamin B12?
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Over the course of two months, a 62-year-old man developed numbness and a “pins and needles” sensation in his hands, had trouble walking, experienced severe joint pain, began turning yellow, and became progressively short of breath. The cause was lack of vitamin B12 in his bloodstream….
Vitamins are required in organisms in limited amounts; however, the problem with vitamins is that a human body cannot produce sufficient quantities of these compounds on its own. Therefore, they must be acquired through food. B12, in particular, is an important vitamin that supports several functions of the brain and nervous system in humans. It is also instrumental in metabolism, red blood cells formation and DNA synthesis.
1The Vegan Diet
Being vegan means to give up eating all the foods of animal origin. So, the list of foods that the rules of the vegan diet do not permit is as such:
- Meat and fish of any kind
- Poultry meat and eggs
- Dairy products and honey
Many people get into this diet for ethical reasons while others think of the advantages of it in weight loss. Mostly, the diet relies on grains, fruits and vegetables. While the eating regime can be extremely beneficial for the most part, it does not come without risks.
This lifestyle, though healthy and environmentally responsible, is not an ideal one. The vegan foods lack, rather have inadequate quantities of certain nutrients that are extremely necessary for good health.
The Natural Sources Of B12
One of the significant facts about Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is that animals and plants cannot synthesize it by themselves. It can only be produced by microorganisms in the domain of bacteria and archaea.
The only proven natural food sources of cobalamin are of animal origin, namely meat, fish, milk and other dairy products. The slight possibility of finding this vitamin in plants exists only because of symbiotic bacteria.
There are no B12 rich vegetables or fruits that one can eat. Consequently, this proves that like some other nutrients, vegans have to find an auxiliary means of including B12 in their diet. A detailed discussion on the plant based diet and vitamin B12 can be read here.
Why Is It Important To Consume B12?
As cited above, cobalamin is imperative for the normal working of the brain and nervous system. To read some more reasons to ensure enough intake of vitamin B12, follow this link.
The real problems start if someone has a severe deficiency of a vitamin, and B12 is a crucial one at that. Deficiency is sometimes caused by malabsorption, specific medical conditions or even because of the use of particular medicines; however, mostly, the cause of deficiency is low consumption of the vitamin.
How To Know When The Body Lacks Cobalamin?
The deficiency of B12 manifests itself in a number of symptoms
- Fatigue and weakness are experienced if the deficiency is a mild one
- Shortness of breath and heart palpitations
- Other physical manifestations are swollen or smooth tongue and anaemia
- Mental effects include depression, poor memory and in most severe cases, psychosis or mania
More information on the deficiency of vitamin B12 can be found here.
People who adhere to a strict vegetarian diet and vegans are clearly more likely to have an insufficient amount of vitamin B12 in their body. This does not mean that they have to change their lifestyle. The answer lies in substitutions and inclusions.
What Are The Vegan B12 Sources?
The vegetarian diet is not totally devoid of vitamin B12 (a.k.a. cobalamin). Typically speaking, the amount of B12 present in milk is around 8%. Since vegetarians incorporate milk in their food intake and consume milk products, they are at a lower risk of getting deficient in the vitamin.
The medical experts and organizations all over the world have recognized the need for finding alternative methods of introducing cobalamin in the vegan diet. There are some instances of people saying that there is no conclusive proof that vegans lack vitamin B12. This blog takes the opposite view of the vegan B12 myth perspective.
There are now fortified foods and supplements available to counter the lack of B12 in foods of plant origin. This means that vegans do not have to compromise on their eating habits.
Supplements For Vegans
Dietary supplements are not new. But most vegans shy away from it because they may be produced with raw materials from animal origin.
However, it should be noted that there are several brands of supplements available that offer vegan B12 supplements.
- The production is done through fermentation of microorganisms
- They are available as chewable pills or swallowing tablets
- They supplements can be taken daily or weekly
- Human body absorbs vitamin B12 better through supplements than through food.
The Two Kinds Of Supplements
There are mainly two kinds of synthetic B12 supplements available in the market. They are cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin. The former is most commonly produced as well as most commonly prescribed.
It is needless to say that both have their advantages and disadvantages. Cyanocobalamin is cheaper, but it also contains cyanide. However, this is not a reason for alarm since cyanocobalamin has been well-researched and is not dangerous.
Cyanocobalamin, actually, gets converted to methylcobalamin once it enters the body. So, it makes sense to take methylcobalamin directly. It is also absorbed better and contains no cyanide; though this is not exactly the point, people would do much for actively avoiding anything with cyanide in it.
Fortification Of Foods
Taking supplements, even if it is only for nutrition, is not for everyone. Therefore, the question is how to get vitamin B12 naturally while maintaining a vegan food plan?
Looking carefully at the nutritional info written on the back of a food container shows that many of them are rich in vitamin B12. If any vegan food contains B12, it means that that food has been fortified.
- Some commonly fortified products are breakfast cereals, energy bars and soy products
- These are now widely available throughout the cities
- The B12 fortified foods are reliable and can be easily included in everyday meals
- Substituting only some of the natural foods for fortified products can achieve a good result
- They are convenient for a vegan and economical too.
Other Fortified Foods
Canned almond milk and coconut milk are often fortified with extra nutrients. Among these nutrients, cobalamin is included too. Vegan mayonnaise is also a fortified source of vitamin B12.
Nutritional yeast B12 is a good source for vegans. Yeast is grown under controlled conditions to allow the bacteria on it to produce the vitamin. The yeast is then deactivated and ultimately acts as a great supplement of B12.
Nutritional yeasts are grown to cater a variety of needs and not all of them contain B12. Only by reading the label, one can make sure of the fact that it serves the purpose.This link contains good info regarding this source.
Sufficient research on vitamin B12 intake or consulting a doctor is essential before starting on any supplements.
Argument Against The Vegan B12 Deficiency
Assuming prokaryotes or single-celled organisms produce vitamin B12, many feel that edible seaweed and fermented foods would do well. Well, doctors and nutritionists feel different.
Some significant researchers are of the opinion that the analog B12 in the sea vegetables and probiotic formulas or even fermented foods go against the active B12. This causes worse cases of deficiency in the human body.
Even the argument that the bacteria in the intestines may be able to produce B12 holds no value. While this may be true, the fact remains that the human body does not absorb the vitamin B12 so produced.
Hence, it is indeed necessary to make certain that enough vitamin B12 is being taken into the body. Experts have continued to discuss and debate the relationship between veganism and B12 deficiency.
Avoiding The Risks Of B12 Deficiency
The reasons for including adequate amounts of nutrient B12 have already been discussed. The vegans who do not think that they lack in the vitamin ought to read further.
Vitamin B12 is sometimes called as the energy vitamin. It encourages proper circulation of blood and supports the immune system. So, if someone is experiencing a constant lack of energy, it may be because of B12 deficiency.
Children are particularly vulnerable if they do not get B12 as much as is necessary. This is because cobalamin contributes a lot to the growth of the body. It promotes cell formation and nerve development.
A particular note on effects of B12 deficiency on infants is necessary. Pregnant women who are deficient in vitamin B12 have an increased risk of miscarriage or giving birth to a baby with neural tube defects.
Not Just For Vegans
The truth is that many people, including vegetarians and non-vegetarians, are at the risk of being deficient in vital nutrients. The major cause is unhealthy eating habits.
That is why everyone must consider getting tested for the deficiencies every few years to minimize health risks. There are laboratories where these tests take place, and a competent doctor can help with any treatment required.
For more information, chat with a doctor for free via Portea’s Mobile App.
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