Vegan? What You Need to Know About Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vegan diets have sprouted up in popularity over the past few decades. While this can bring many benefits to our bodies AND the planet, there’s one major downside: vitamin B12 deficiency.
Because of its role in red blood cell formation, energy and brain function, vitamin b12 is one of the most serious of all vitamin deficiencies. Left untreated for years, it can cause irreversible nerve and cognitive damage.
If you’ve adopted a vegan lifestyle, it’s important to be in-the-know about how to protect yourself from b12 deficiency so you can reap only the positives of plant-based eating.
Why Are Vegans Prone to Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products only … meat, poultry, fish, eggs and milk. That’s why this vitamin deficiency is extremely common among vegans, with some B12 studies indicating that 86% of all vegans are affected.
The longer you’ve been following a vegan diet, the greater your risk of b12 deficiency, with most symptoms cropping up around year five. For breastfeeding mothers, it’s especially vital to address a b12 deficiency, as it can pass on to the infant and cause health problems within 2–12 months.
Be On Alert for These B12 Deficiency Symptoms
There are a variety of symptoms associated with B12 deficiency. Keep in mind that folate – found in abundance in leafy greens – can often mask fatigue (one of the earliest signs of anemia and B12 deficiency), so many people are not aware they are b12 deficient until more serious symptoms develop.
- Muscle weakness
- Pale or yellow skin
- Loss of taste and smell
- Heart problems
- Sore tongue
- Ongoing constipation
- Brain fog
- Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
Sadly, B12 deficiency can also affect our mental health, and is so powerful, it can mimic all kinds of psychiatric disorders. In seniors, it can often be mistaken for dementia.
How Much Vitamin B12 Do I Need … And Where Can I Get It?
For vitamin b12, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for ages 14+ is 2.4 micrograms (mcg) a day, 2.6 mcg if you’re pregnant, and 2.8 mcg if you’re breastfeeding.
Some people may need more, depending on lifestyle and overall health. The FDA has the Daily Value for vitamin b12 at 6 mcg, as roughly 50% of it will be absorbed by the body (less if you’re over age 50).
Fortunately, there are many fortified vitamin b12 foods for vegans, including grains, nutritional yeast, almond milk, cereals, and protein shakes.
Did you know? VIBE protein shakes are a favorite among vegans because they have 20 grams of pea protein, a full serving of greens, a patented probiotic AND 100% daily value of vitamin b12!
Should I Take a Vitamin B Supplement?
Fortified vitamin b12 foods are a great start in protecting from b12 deficiency, but it’s often not enough for vegans. That’s why it’s smart to go a step further and take a vitamin b supplement each day. Annual b12 screenings by your physician will also give you a pulse on your levels so you can have peace of mind.
What about vitamin b12 shots? High-quality oral b12 supplements are proven just as effective as vitamin b12 shots. The exception is if you have gastrointestinal problems or pernicious anemia, and therefore difficulty absorbing the vitamin. B12 shots sidestep the stomach and are directly absorbed into the bloodstream.
Important: choose your vitamin b supplement wisely! Methylcobalamin is the active form of vitamin b12 and is the easiest for the body to absorb versus the cheaper synthetic form, cyanocobalamin.
We recommend Vitality, a max-absorption immune system supplement with the superior form of b12 that delivers stronger immunity, natural energy and better mood. Combine this with super fruit antioxidants and all the key vitamins and minerals you need, and you have the perfect daily essential to support a healthy vegan lifestyle.
P.S. Plant the seed and share this post with your fellow vegans to help them feel their best too!