Vegan Health Benefits and Risks – Vitamin B12 1

Vegan health benefits of Vitamin B12 cannot be disputed in the vegan community and a deficiency in this vitamin can put many people at risk of serious complications if they do not supplement with B12.  What can be disputed, and often is discussed online, is the comparison between a sublingual form of B12 versus an oral form (i.e. pill).  In this post, I’ll share what you need to know about B12 as a new vegan, and yes, you need to know about it.

Vitamin B12

B12, also called cobalamin, is one of the few vitamins that cannot be obtained naturally for vegans through the consumption of plant-based products.  Luckily for us in this day and age, we can often obtain sufficient amounts of B12 through eating and drinking of fortified foods or vitamin supplementation.  As described more eloquently by wikipedia:

[B12] is a water-soluble vitamin with a key role in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, and for the formation of red blood cells. It is one of eight B vitamins. It is involved in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, especially affecting DNA synthesis and regulation, but also fatty acid metabolism and amino acid metabolism.[1] Neither fungi, plants, nor animals (including humans) are capable of producing vitamin B12. Only bacteria and archaea have the enzymes required for its synthesis. Some plant foods are a natural source of B12 because of bacterial symbiosis.  B12 is the largest and most structurally complicated vitamin and can be produced industrially only through a bacterial fermentation-synthesis. This synthetic B12 is used to fortify foods and sold as a dietary supplement.


Vegan Health Benefits of B12

Well if the wiki info didn’t already give you enough of an idea of how important it is to intake B12, let me share with you how important it is to avoid a deficiency of this important vitamin.  While the cause of a deficiency is normally due to pernicious anaemia, food-B12 malabsorption, as described in the article linked below from the Recanati Center for Medicine and Research and Clinical Pharmacology Unit, another form of deficiency is caused by vegetarianism (to include veganism consequently).  A deficiency can have irreversible central nervous system and brain damage, and can also cause depression and cognitive problems.


Okay, B12 is important…now what?

While many popular vegans with a substantial presence online and following often swear by taking sublingual B12 supplements.  I found that in the article attached below, there is not sufficient evidence that taking B12 in a sublingual form, to be substantially more effective than an oral route.  This is great news, as the sublingual versions are often much more expensive, while not seeming to meet the proclaimed efficacy over oral B12 supplements, in my opinion, based on the study I have referenced.  I encourage you to take a moment to read the article in full as the conclusion of the article states:

“Cobalamin is traditionally administered by intramuscular injections. However, it has recently been shown [9] that the sublingual route is equally effective. In this prospective study of 30 subjects with vitamin B12 deficiency, we found that sublingual and oral administration of 500 mg of cobalamin was equally effective in correcting cobalamin concentrations.”


Thanks for the read about the vegan health benefits of B12 and be sure to check back for other posts about vegan health benefits and risks of other vitamins and minerals!

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