What Vegans Need to Know About B12

A potential side effect of a plant-based diet can be compromised B-12 levels that the body needs for optimum health. B12 comes naturally from dirt and is ingested by animals that eat grass and plants. B12 is absorbed in their systems and transferred through their byproducts. Plants have no active processes to produce or store B12. If any B12 is found in plants it is often due to contamination from symbiotic bacteria, i.e. fecal or insect contamination.

For vegans, the best sources of B12 are some plant-based milks, soy products and a few breakfast cereals. Checking labels to see if B12 is included in products is recommended. Vegans are recommended to get at least 3 mcg of B12 via fortified foods, two to three times a day. Another option is via B12 supplements that provide a minimum of 10 mcg a day. Many experts suggest sublingual B12, because the body more efficiently absorbs it.

Possible warning signs of low B12 levels can include:

  • Energy Loss
  • Numbness or Tingling
  • Blurry Vision
  • Confusion
  • Memory Loss
  • Stumbling
  • Depression
  • Tongue Inflammation
  • Compromised Heart Functionality

Analogues, or false B12 readings, can become elevated from algae, nori and some plant based foods that contain inactive B12 that elevate blood test readings but do not provide the same effect as active B12 from animal byproducts. Therefore if a blood test signifies acceptable levels of B12 but a person is still experiencing some of the symptoms mentioned above, they should ask for their Homocysteine and/or MMA (Methylmalonic Acid) levels to be tested to give a look at the total picture.

It should also be noted that nursing mothers require more B12. Low B12 levels can be an issue of both adults of any age, and children.

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