When it comes to vitamin B12, Vegans are not the only one’s at risk of deficiency.
Vegetarians and even meat eaters can also become deficient in this vital nutrient.
So, what is vitamin B12, why do we need it and how can we make sure we have adequate amounts in our diet?
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble nutrient that is essential to our nervous system and the production of red blood cells and DNA. Vitamin B12 is not a chemical produced by animals or plants, but is produced solely by bacteria, usually found in the soil. Some symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are fatigue, anaemia and even blindness.
A common misconception is that we must consume meat, dairy and eggs to make sure we are getting B12 in our diets. This is not at all true, and in fact all farmed animals have B12 supplementation in their food so as to pass this second hand vitamin on to humans through the consumption of animal products.
There was a time before the era of factory farming and the decimation of the earths soils and waterways by the use of chemicals and unsustainable agricultural practices, when vitamin B12 could be found in the soil and water. Humans and animals living off the land during that time were able to get an adequate level of this building block of life through their normal diet. But as time went by and industrialisation destroyed the balance in the earths soils, Vitamin B12 deficiency became an issue.
Most livestock are now supplemented with vitamin B12 and it has become standard practice among many Western farms to feed livestock the manure of other supplemented animals, in fact “the FDA has reported that most meats are contaminated with faecal bacteria”. Forks Over Knives
Now in the modern, more hygienic era of pesticides, sanitisation and cleaning practices, plants are no longer a reliable source of vitamin B12.
Despite the mass consumption of animals and animal products, B12 deficiency is still a widespread problem across the globe with around 40 percent of patients in USA having unexplained stunted levels, 99 percent of the 40 percent being non-vegan.
Researchers believe that this is due to the human body not being able to absorb the vitamin properly from these food sources, but we are, however, able to absorb it just fine from supplementation and fortified foods.
So, where can you find the best sources of B12?
The best forms of B12 are those easiest absorbed by the body. The crystalline form found in B12 supplements, fortified plant milks, cereals and nutritional yeast (Nooch) are among the best sources.
Although animal products contain high levels of “protein-bound B12”, they are not a reliable source for the following reasons:
According to Forks Over Knives, the B12 in animal products can be very difficult for many people to absorb especially those with low levels of gastric acid and secondly, the consumption of animal products increases levels of cancer causing hormones and promotes degeneration of blood vessels resulting in the build up of cholesterol plaque.
Given the widespread occurrences of B12 deficiency, it is recommended that everyone monitor their B12 levels regardless of diet.
A simple blood test for this should be able to determine whether you need further supplementation, however further testing may be necessary in some cases.
It is recommended you seek advice from your health care practitioner regarding any concerns before taking supplements.
Stay healthy and happy and sprinkle a bit of Nooch on it!