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7 min

Vitamin B12 and vegan diet: Myths and realities

Vitamin B12 plays a crucial role for our body: it supports the nervous system, is involved in the production of red blood cells and plays a role in the production of neurotransmitters.

It is obtained mainly through food of animal origin, which is why vegans and vegetarians are often the first mentioned when we talk about nutritional vitamin B12 deficiency.

In this article, we will highlight the question of the availability of vitamin B12 in a plant-based diet and try to dispel the myth of the deficient vegan.

vitamin b12 vegan

What is a vegan or vegetarian diet?

More than a diet, being vegan or vegetarian is above all adopting a new way of life, carrying a message and defending values. It is a philosophy of life that shines today on a global scale.

In terms of food, this translates into the exclusion of the consumption of meat and fish. Whether out of animal conviction or ethical concerns, a vegan or vegetarian person is generally committed to a healthy diet .

However, these food choices can increase the risk of deficiencies , particularly in vitamin B12 since this is mainly present in products of animal origin, such as meat, dairy products and eggs for example.

A vegan will generally exclude all of these foods mentioned, so as not to consume any animal products.

A vegetarian person does not consume any meat or fish, but continues to eat dairy products and eggs.

The risk of vitamin B12 deficiency is therefore higher when following a vegan diet.

Where to find vitamin B12 in a vegan or vegetarian diet?

A vegan or vegetarian diet does not necessarily mean lack. And fortunately !

By adopting a diversified diet and emphasizing good food combinations , all of the body's daily needs can be met even without being omnivorous. With one small exception: Vitamin B12.

vitamin b12 vegan

Food sources of vitamin B12

The best sources of vitamin B12 are offal, fish (sardines, salmon), seafood and eggs (mainly the yolk). Vegetarians therefore see their choices reduced but can meet their vitamin B12 needs by continuing to consume eggs or cheese, for example.

Vegan friends, we haven't forgotten you: vitamin B12 is present in certain green vegetables, certain yeasts, algae, miso, breakfast cereals (cornflake type), fermented soy and some mushrooms (shiitake).

However, the amount of vitamin B12 in these foods is often very low and may also be unusable for the body. Vitamin B12 supplementation is often the best alternative to meet your needs.

And the algae in all this? We often hear about seaweed supplementation to provide vitamin B12. But the bioavailability of vitamin B12 contained in algae (including chlorella for example) is still the subject of numerous studies and is not, at present, clearly proven.

This is why vitamin B12 supplementation in the form of a supplement is a very good alternative to supplement the daily needs of vegans and vegetarians.

Vitamin B12 supplements

Recommended dosages of vitamin B12 for adults vary depending on age, gender and general condition.

For a healthy adult, the recommendations are between 2.4 and 4 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day , which is easily achievable with quality supplements when you are vegan .

A question then arises: Which form of vitamin B12 to choose ?

And yes, vitamin B12 comes in several forms allowing the body to use the one that suits it best to perform a specific function. Some forms of vitamin B12 are better absorbed by the body than others. This absorption factor should therefore be taken into account when choosing a vitamin B12 supplement .

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Vitamin B12 deficiency in vegetarians and vegans

Causes of vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency does not only affect vegans and vegetarians, but can also affect people suffering from intestinal disorders.

In addition, it can be caused by poor absorption or be linked to poor storage of the vitamin. People over 50 can sometimes also be deficient in vitamin B12.

Lack of vitamin B12 can manifest as fatigue, memory loss, loss of appetite, or even digestive disorders. The body therefore sounds the alarm and demands its vitamin B12 treatment .

Importance of prevention

Before getting there, the idea is to act in prevention by asking the right questions:

  • - I am vegan/vegetarian, do I include enough foods rich in vitamin B12 in my daily life?
  • - Is my diet varied enough?
  • - When was my last vitamin B12 treatment?

In this way, you can either make sure to include more foods rich in vitamin B12 if you can, or start a treatment in the form of a supplement to meet all your needs.

vitamin b12 vegan

Tips for Getting Adequate Vitamin B12 for Vegans or Vegetarians

The importance of a balanced diet

To be sure to obtain maximum vitamin B12 when you are vegan or vegetarian, you will need to focus on plant foods which contain the most (but also eggs, certain cheeses and milk for vegetarians), vary your diet as much as possible but keep in mind that these foods will not always be sufficient to cover daily needs.

Also remember to read the nutritional values ​​table of your products to find the vitamin B12 content.

Vitamin B12 supplementation

Are you vegan and have you opted for Vitamin B12 supplementation? Good idea !

Here's what you need to know before starting your treatment:

  • - The body's absorption capacity : It is limited and therefore requires providing the body with a much higher dose of vitamin B12 than the recommended dosage. By focusing on a high dosage, you can be sure to obtain the recommended 2.4µg daily.
  • - The frequency of the treatment : A treatment of between 3 and 4 months is generally recommended to stock up on vitamin B12.

Regular checks

  • Regular dosages :
    Taking supplements does not exempt you from taking regular dosages of vitamin B12 to ensure that its level remains within standards. Vitamin B12 levels are measured by a blood test and may be prescribed by your doctor. This is the best way to know if you are lacking vitamin B12 and if it is time to take your cure. If you are vegan or vegetarian, the ideal is to carry out a vitamin B12 dosage every year or every two years according to your doctor's recommendations.

  • Good to know: Are you newly vegan and have just taken a dosage showing no lack of vitamin B12?

    Be careful, B12 is stored in different places in the body for several years. You may simply be using up your reserves, so it is advisable to do regular checks over several years and not just a dosage taken shortly after your dietary change.

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Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 in its active and bioavailable form, methylcobalamin.

  • ✅ 100% pure methylcobalamin
  • ✅ Optimal dosage 1000 μg
  • ✅ 4 months of treatment
  • ✅ Made in France
See the product

To conclude

In summary, vegetarians and vegans are more likely to suffer from a nutritional vitamin B12 deficiency, but their commitment to a healthy diet and their often in-depth knowledge of micronutrients leads them to take the necessary steps to fill this gap. and this can be done through quality supplements.

Thus, the idea that vegetarians and vegans are necessarily in deficit is obsolete and we now know that it is entirely possible to follow a vegan diet and have a sufficient intake of vitamin B12 thanks to supplementation for example ;)

Eloise Dubois-Gaché - Naturopath

Naturopath and FENA certified

Thanks to her solid experience in different herbalists, Eloïse includes, if necessary, complete and precise advice in phytotherapy, aromatherapy, gemmotherapy and micro-nutrition when setting up a personalized and adapted lifestyle program to everyone.

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