The best vitamin B12 supplements for vegans and vegetarians

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is one of the most important vitamins for the proper functioning of the human body. It is not a component of it, so it should be ingested through food. Vegetable species do not contain it, although certain animal foods do contain it, as the body of the animals themselves has already synthesized this micronutrient. So, if you don’t eat animal products, this guide to vitamin B12 supplementation for vegans and vegetarians may interest you.

Why is B12 so important for the organism?

This B complex vitamin plays a fundamental role in a wide selection of metabolic functions of the organism, such as fat metabolism and protein synthesis. Plus. It is involved in the production of red blood cells and is fundamental to the development of the nervous system. One of the most well-known functions of this vitamin is that it provides energy because it transforms fatty acids into energy. This is why one of the main symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency is fatigue and weakness.

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Cyanocobalamin is mainly stored in the liver, where it can remain for three to five years; during that time, the body uses this nutrient as it needs it, but if it is not consumed regularly, it disappears.

Why should vegans and vegetarians take vitamin B12 supplements?

B12 tablets and supplements for vegans and vegetarians

Before going on to answer this question, it is important to be clear that this is an essential vitamin for the proper functioning of the body. This micronutrient deficiency is a relatively serious pathology.

Deficiencies

Having low levels of cobalamin in the blood can produce all kinds of negative symptoms, being one of the main ones, which occurs in practically 100% of cases, fatigue and weakness.

In addition, people who suffer from micronutrient deficiencies may notice numbness and tingling in the extremities.

It can also cause a defective synthesis of neuronal myelin, resulting in a nervous system disorder.

Having a lack of B12 is very negative and many aspects can be affected. What is clear, however, is that this micro-nutrient and all the others must be supplied in order for our body to function perfectly.

Causes of vitamin B12 deficiency in the body

Now that we have known the severity of having low levels of this vitamin B group, we are going to analyze its causes, which can be divided into two large groups.

  • On the one hand, this is often found in people whose bodies are unable to properly absorb, synthesize or store this micro-nutrient.
  • And, on the other hand, deficiency can occur in vegan and vegetarian people; it is more common in vegan and vegetarian people because they do not consume any animal products. Although it is true that there are foods of vegetable origin that contain this vitamin, although its amount is very low and do not cover the recommended daily amount. Similarly, anyone on an unbalanced diet can suffer from cobalamin deficiency.

Therefore, if vitamin B12 supplements are not taken, in both cases and in the medium to long term, this deficiency can occur. The deficiency of this micronutrient is especially dangerous because the symptoms do not begin to appear until after two or three years, when we run out of reserves that we have been able to store.

Weakness, fatigue, and numbness of the arms and legs are usually the first signs of alertness. However, during those two or three years, the low level of this vitamin has caused medium or severe functional damage to the body.

When you are going to go on a vegan diet, which completely excludes the consumption of food of animal origin, it is best to put yourself in the hands of a nutritionist to prevent this situation that we know will end up happening. An expert who knows very well which nutrients provided by animal foods should be consumed through supplements so that the body of a vegan or vegetarian works properly will be the one who should advise you on the right type in your case.

Deficiency during pregnancy

B12 deficiency is a serious pathology at any time in life, but especially during pregnancy. During the last trimester of pregnancy, the fetus begins to take increasing amounts of vitamin B12 from the mother’s storehouse, which is usually found in the liver. In the same way, once the baby is born, the mother provides the micronutrient to the baby through breast milk.

Therefore, if the mother has low levels in her body, the baby is very likely to have deficiency. Even if the mother shows no symptoms of this pathology, perhaps the fetus is not receiving adequate amounts. Thus, a baby may have developmental problems.

If a woman is vegetarian or vegan and pregnant, it is important to consult a nutritionist and explain her situation to avoid these problems, both for herself and her child.

How common is vitamin B12 deficiency in vegans and vegetarians?

A study published in the journal “Nutrition Reviews” entitled “What is the prevalence of vitamin B12 among vegetarians?” sheds some light on this pathology in vegan and vegetarian people. The main conclusion of the study was that anyone who does not consume food of animal origin to a greater or lesser extent is at risk of having low levels of animal origin, regardless of their age and lifestyle.

The study looked at people from different vegan and vegetarian age groups and the results are conclusive.

  • Among the children, 25 to 86% were deficient.
    For adolescents, the percentage is between 21 and 41 per cent.
  • Adults, between 11 and 90% suffer from deficiency of this nutrient.
  • For pregnant women, 62% had unacceptably low levels; an extremely dangerous pathology because the chances of malformations in the fetus and premature births soar.

In addition, the study found that the highest deficiency rates were found in vegans, as vegetarians do eat eggs and dairy, which are foods of animal origin.

As can be seen, the figures indicate that there is a total lack of control with respect to the cobalamin stores that these people have in the body; that is, most will not be aware of the problem they suffer and no one will have informed them that their B12 level was possibly too low.

How much B12 should I take if I am vegan or vegetarian?

Vegetarian and vegan food with B12

As you can see, having a good level of vitamin B12 in the body is very important to not have any kind of health problems in the short and long term. There are several options available when taking the recommended amount of this micronutrient without consuming animal foods:

Daily supplements (25-100 milligrams)

Daily supplement: You can also choose to take a daily supplement. In the market there is a large selection of formats available that adapt to all types of tastes and needs. The minimum daily intake should be 25 milligrams conveniently in cyanocobalamin form, more assimilable than in other forms of B12.

Weekly supplements (1000-2000 milligrams)

Weekly supplement: The difference lies simply in the number of shots you take, and it may be more comfortable to take a single dose per week. The minimum weekly supplement amount is between 1000 and 2000 milligrams. Whether in sublingual or tablet form, it is always advisable to use cyanocobalamin.

Fortified foods

There are some foods enriched with vitamin B12, which we will explain in a later section. You can take 2 or 3 servings a day of this type of food. In Europe, it is not the most recommended option since fortified foods are very scarce and, in most cases, unhealthy. These foods contain very small or similar amounts of it, which are of no use at all and often large amounts of processed sugars, as in the case of many (not all) breakfast cereals.

Foods of vegetable origin containing B12

To begin by explaining this section, the first thing is to clarify that no vegetable food contains high amounts of this micronutrient. Nowadays, it is very popular among vegans to consume fermented soy products, such as algae or miso. However, it is important to remember that none of these foods contain very little of the micronutrient in question.

Although it is true that many establishments sell them practically as supplements, the active amount of the nutrient is minimal. Instead, they contain vitamin B12 analogues, which are not active at all. Not only that, they also often block the absorption of the true cobalamin that we have consumed through pills, sublingual, injections or gels.

The following are vegetable foods with vitamin B12:

  • Tempeh: It is a derivative of fermented soybean. Although its B12 content is very low compared to animal foods, it has a high amount of B12 in plant foods. About 0.1 micrograms per 100 grams of product. The bacterial growth that occurs when fermenting soya to obtain tempeh increases the amount of vitamin.
  • Vegetables: There are certain vegetables that contain traces of this nutrient; eye, only traces, so they cannot cover the recommended daily allowance. Some of these vegetables are broccoli or soya bean sprouts. a good option as a supplement to supplementation, but never useful in themselves for a vegan or vegetarian to take the daily amount they need.
  • Edible mushrooms: There are also a few edible mushrooms that provide small amounts to the body, such as the trumpet of death or golden chanterelles; they contain 2.2 micrograms per 100 grams of dry food.
  • Edible algae: Algae is a very common food in many vegan diets. Well, it is worth knowing that within plant foods they have significant amounts of cyanocobalamin. For example, nori algae, which provide 30 micrograms per 100 grams of dry food. This is the richest type of algae in this nutrient; the rest have little or no vitamin. In addition, the nori seaweed contains essential nutrients such as iron and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
  • Other alternatives are: green laundry, candy, kombu or akame.

Types of artificial sources suitable for vegans or vegetarians

Fortified foods

There are some foods fortified with vitamin B12. In addition to this nutrient, the vast majority of foods of this type contain other vitamins of the B group, such as B9 or B6, which are also very important. Therefore, they are a good choice when it comes to nourishing the body’s vitamins.

Some of these fortified foods are:

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  • Soy beverage or enriched breakfast cereals.
  • There are also other foods such as:”meat” fortified vegetables
  • Enriched beer yeast
  • Enriched tofu

All of this is designed to offer more options for vegans and vegetarians.

Cobalamine-enriched croplands

More and more people are opting for a diet that is free from animal products, but of course they need plant foods or cobalamin supplementation to cover these deficiencies in food of animal origin.

Thus, certain companies have emerged that market vegetables products indicating that they have been cultivated on arable land containing B12. Therefore, the idea is to eat the vegetables that are grown there without washing them. However, the health risk of eating these dirty vegetables is very high, and it is not even certain that they actually contain it. These foods in Europe are banned, but there are places around the world where they are marketed.

How do I take cobalamin supplements if I am vegan or vegetarian?

How to take vitamin b12 supplements in tablets

Therefore, vegans and vegetarians should take this group B vitamin supplement, which can be found in many different formats on the market. It has to be said that no supplement obtains B12 from animal origin, but synthesized in laboratories.

Dosage

It is important to make sure that the supplement has a sufficient amount of cobalamin. This point is really key because if the format you have chosen does not meet your body’s needs, the medium and long term consequences can be very negative for your health.

When it comes to selecting the dosage, the vast majority of vegans opt for weekly supplementation because they are the ones who have the greatest security in terms of absorption. You should choose a supplement containing 2000 micrograms of cobalamin to take once a week. In Europe they are not very easy to find, so our advice is to buy vitamin B12 supplements online, always in a trusted store or inform yourself and order them at your usual pharmacy.

You can also opt for daily supplementation, although it is by no means the best option. You should choose one that contains between 25 and 100 micrograms of micronutrient.

Supplementation formats and presentations

There are different types of vegetables on the market, however, the oral route is still the most popular one among vegans and vegetarians.

Weekly supplementation of 2000 micrograms has the same effectiveness as B12 injections, even in patients with problems absorbing vitamin B12. The nutrient diffuses directly into the intestinal wall without intrinsic factor.

Other formats or presentations for taking micronutrients outside of our diet are:

  • The sublingual ones, which quickly unravel under the tongue
  • Prescription gels and injections
  • The drops, which are ideal for children
  • Sprays, efficiency yet to be proven

B12 in vegan women during pregnancy

Contrary to popular belief, during pregnancy, the dose should be somewhat more moderate than usual and should be regulated frequently. Therefore, it is best to opt for daily supplementation, which can range from 10 to 200 mcg. A doctor should determine the amount and perform tests to confirm that the dosage is adequate or adjust it if necessary.

In any case, we must remember that B12 is water-soluble, so if you are taking something more than that, we would easily excrete it in the urine. Multivitamin complexes that include folic acid, iron and others are commonly prescribed during pregnancy. Although, in the case of vegan women, the type of complex and dose will vary, but this amount must always be determined by a nutritionist or doctor, since each case must be studied individually.

Dosage in vegan or vegetarian babies

Vegan babies who are exclusively breastfed should not, in principle, need supplementation if the mother is already adequately supplemented, as some of that vitamin will pass into milk as with all other nutrients.

The same is true if your child drinks formula; it already includes the right amount of each nutrient according to age in its composition, which is why it is so important that children don’t take formula of an age that doesn’t correspond to their age.

On the other hand, once complementary feeding begins, we should also start supplementation, even if the baby continues to drink milk, breast milk or artificial milk. This usually occurs after the fifth month of life.

In this case, the format for supplementing your child with B12 will be the drops. There is no specific dosage because it will depend exclusively on the amount of milk and food you take. If you still drink a lot of milk and a little food, you will need to supplement less. As you stop suckling and most of the food is external, a higher dose of drops should be included.

This is something that will change continuously and should be recommended by your pediatrician, always considering some other factors. If the mother is co-abalamine-deficient and breastfeeds her child, it will also be necessary to give her drops, although it would be advisable to give her artificial formulation.

Does B12 accumulate? How long do reservations last?

One of the most common questions among vegans is whether or not the vitamin builds up. Well, the answer is yes. This micronutrient is stored mainly in the liver, but also in many other places, where it can remain for two to three years. During this period of time, the organism is taking the amount it needs at each moment, although the old reserves that have not been used in this time will be excreted because they are not effective forever.

Thus, when a person suffers from vitamin deficiency, his or her body does not begin to show symptoms until two or three years later. However, during this period of time, different functional alterations have been taking place, although without giving any warning signal.

Infographics on the B12 Guide for vegans and vegetarians

Infographics on the vitamine B12 Guide for vegans and vegetarians

Conclusion

If you are a vegan, vegetarian or vegetarian, we recommend that you contact a nutritionist. Dieting a diet without any type of animal food is very complicated to cover all the needs of the body. Therefore, if you design it yourself, you are sure that in the medium or long term you have basic nutrient deficiencies. A nutritionist has a great education and experience in this world, so it is he who will design you a proper vegan diet and recommend what type of B12 supplement you should take.

When buying a good supplement we recommend that you pay special attention. With the rise of veganism, many brands are taking advantage of this nutrient and selling supplements that actually contain hardly any amount.

We hope that this guide has been useful to you in order to learn more about this vitamin B complex and how important it is not to suffer from a lack of it; the health consequences in many cases can be irreversible. Therefore, consult a nutritionist who specializes in veganism and get regular blood tests to check that everything is in order.

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Are you vegan or vegetarian? Did you know the health problem of the B12 deficit? Do you take some kind of supplement? Tell us about your experience, together we make the community better thanks to you!

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