Vitamin B12...take it!

This is a repost from my latest contribution to the Healthy & Humane Observer.

There are some things you just shouldn’t live without – a comfy pair of jeans, a stellar book collection, and a consistent supply of vitamin B12. Ok, so perhaps your idea of “must haves” is a bit different, but do not dare disregard the importance of vitamin B12. All vegans should include a reliable source of this nutrient in their diet. Reliable sources include fortified foods like non-dairy beverages, cereals, meat analogs and nutritional yeast, as well as a supplement. If you are not including any of these sources in your diet, you run the risk of developing a deficiency, which can cause anemia, elevated risk for heart disease, and potentially irreversible neurological damage. A deficiency may go unnoticed as symptoms can take years to develop, which is why it is crucial to have a regular intake of the nutrient. It should be noted that Vitamin B12 deficiency is far from a “vegan only” issue, as it affects many adults as they age due to decreased absorption ability, which is why it is advocated all people over the age of 50 years old supplement with this nutrient.

As vegans, we simply cannot stand by the idea that every nutrient we need, we can obtain solely by eating plants. It is scientifically untrue in today’s society. It is true that we need only a small amount of this vitamin – 2.4 micrograms for adults with slightly higher needs for pregnant and lactating women. So, it is reasonable to think that a century ago when food sanitation was not what it is today, a vegan could obtain the daily requirement for vitamin B12 from bacteria on food and in drinking water.Still today, some people believe foods, like algae and fermented products, are reliable sources of vitamin B12. Again, this is untrue.

If you are opting to rely on fortified foods as your primary source of vitamin B12, you should reach your recommended daily intake by consuming 2-3 servings of fortified foods.  On the other hand, if you do not consistently consume fortified foods, you must take a supplement - at a dose of 25 – 100 micrograms daily or 1,000 micrograms twice per week. Those amounts may seem excessive, but our body only absorbs a small percentage of the dose. It is simply that easy to ensure a consistent vitamin B12 supply.