Vitamin B12 Supplementation for Vegans

You must know vitamin B12 supplementation is important if you're vegan in order to prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Vitamin B12 Supplementation for Vegans

Last update: 08 August, 2021

Vitamin B12 supplementation is particularly important for vegans as they have a harder time maintaining adequate levels and, thus, preventing health problems. This is because a plant-based diet is nutrient-deficient.

The main principle of a well-balanced diet is variety. You may not be aware of it but a vegan diet is way too restrictive. Thus, people must carefully plan it to ensure the right intake of all essential nutrients.

Vitamin B12 is of particular concern in a vegan diet

This vitamin is only present in foods of animal origin and a deficiency leads to disease. It’s also an essential micronutrient. What this means is that the body can’t produce it on its own.

Indeed, vitamin B12 is water-soluble and the body has some reserves of it. This is why a deficiency doesn’t lead to immediate consequences. In fact, several weeks may go by before there are any symptoms.

The consequences of vitamin B12 deficiency

The main consequence of a deficiency of this vitamin is the development of megaloblastic anemia. At least according to a study published in the journal American Family Physician. This kind of deficiency causes alterations in the formation of red blood cells, which triggers an inefficient transport of oxygen through the blood. Thus, it manifests as tiredness and chronic fatigue.

To reverse the problem, a person must restore this nutrient supply through their diet. Otherwise, the symptoms will continue. It may even reveal signs of other underlying conditions like hypothyroidism.

An illustration about anemia.
Anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency leads to tiredness and fatigue.

Ways to get enough vitamin B12 through a vegan diet

You can actually do this without any supplements. All you have to do is eat fortified foods that contain this vitamin two or three times a day. You must ensure an intake of three micrograms per day.

Some products for vegans, such as vegetable drinks, are enriched with the substance. In fact, they provide one microgram per serving so you’d need three servings in a day to meet this requirement.

B12 supplements

Besides fortified foods, vegans might want to resort to vitamin B12 supplementation. Research published in the journal Nutrients indicates that these greatly reduce the risk of anemia.

Ideally, opt for a daily supplement that provides 10 micrograms a day or a weekly one that provides 2000. This dose would be enough to prevent this condition.

Take into account that the needs of sportspeople are different. At least according to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. This is because their micronutrient requirements are usually higher due to sweat loss and their body’s demand for more energy.

When to visit a professional?

It’s important to consult a professional before starting a vegan diet, in order to do so properly. Not only must you include a vitamin B12 supplement, but you might also have to add other essential micronutrients.

In addition, consult a specialist if you experience fatigue or lose weight for no apparent reason. They’ll do some diagnostic tests to check the levels of vitamin B12 and other nutrients in your body.

A doctor evaluating a patient.
Measuring nutrients and micronutrients in the blood in the face of chronic fatigue, lack of strength, incorrect perception of environmental temperatures, or a lack of concentration.

Vitamin B12 supplementation is a must for vegans

As mentioned above, vegans must pay special attention to their intake of vitamin B12. In fact, nutritionists usually recommend the inclusion of supplements so as to prevent deficits.

While it’s true that you can obtain any nutrient through the consumption of fortified products, dietary supplements are the best way to ensure daily intake. Always consult a nutritionist or another health professional in this regard and follow their advice.

This is because these people are trained and thus, qualified, to prescribe the best supplement for your specific needs. They can actually help you elaborate wholesome well-balanced menus that won’t put your health at risk.

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  • Rizzo G, Laganà AS, Rapisarda AM, La Ferrera GM, Buscema M, Rossetti P, Nigro A, Muscia V, Valenti G, Sapia F, Sarpietro G, Zigarelli M, Vitale SG. Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation. Nutrients. 2016 Nov 29;8(12):767. doi: 10.3390/nu8120767. PMID: 27916823; PMCID: PMC5188422.
  • Rogerson D. Vegan diets: practical advice for athletes and exercisers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Sep 13;14:36. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0192-9. PMID: 28924423; PMCID: PMC5598028.