Vegans and B12 – the sometimes missing nutrient

“I don’t eat any animal products.” Pull the reigns, and hold your horses! Let the interrogation begin. The idea of not consuming any derivatives of animals is foreign and confusing to non-vegetarian individuals. For those who follow a vegan lifestyle, it seems logical. The most important question—is it nutritionally adequate?

“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases1.” (The American Dietetic Association is now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics)

Surprised? A healthy lifestyle is attainable when vegans consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and fortified products. However, vitamin B12 can quickly become a point of concern. This water-soluble vitamin is essential in nerve function and metabolism of food. Healthy adults require 2.4 micrograms per day to maintain health. A recent scientific study found that vegetarians are more likely to have a vitamin B12 deficiency than non-vegetarians2. Up to 41% of adolescent vegetarians are deficient, 62% of pregnant women and 90% of elders2. The findings are independent of demographics, age or type of vegetarianism2.

Consuming vitamin B12 should be at the forefront of vegans’ minds. As a vegan, it can be easy to eat enough vitamin B12 if you are intentional about it. Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products, but many vegan products are fortified with the vitamin. Various breakfast cereals, nondairy alternatives, meat alternatives and nutritional yeasts can provide enough vitamin B12 to be healthy. Make sure to read nutrition labels to determine the percent daily value that the product contains. Educating yourself on nutrition can be of great benefit to your body and mind. If you have any questions regarding a vegan lifestyle, leave a comment below or talk with your registered dietitian. Eat your vitamin B12, and be healthy!

By Laura Oliver, RD

1Craig, W. J., A. R. Mangels, and American Dietetic Association. “Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 109.7 (2009): 1266-82. Print.

2Pawlak, R., et al. “How Prevalent is Vitamin B(12) Deficiency among Vegetarians?” Nutrition reviews 71.2 (2013): 110-7. Print.


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