Why is Vitamin B-12 so important in a vegan diet?

Why is Vitamin B-12 essential to us?

Vitamin B-12 is important for the formation of red blood cells, the proper function of the nervous system, and DNA synthesis. It is mostly found in animal-derived foods, such as meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, but is not typically found in plant-based foods. Therefore, individuals following a strict plant-based diet may be at risk for vitamin B-12 deficiency and may need to take a supplement or consume fortified foods to meet their needs.

At Eat by Alex, we fortify all our shots with Vitamin B-12 by adding 1 mg of liquid B-12.

What are the symptoms of a deficiency in Vitamin B-12?

Vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause a variety of symptoms, some of which can be serious if left untreated. Some of the common symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency include fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, nerve damage, nerve pain or tingling, and problems with memory and thinking. In severe cases, vitamin B-12 deficiency can lead to anemia, which can cause shortness of breath, pale skin, and a rapid heartbeat. Long-term vitamin B-12 deficiency can also increase the risk of certain types of cancer, osteoporosis, and cognitive decline. It's important to note that it can take a long time for symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency to develop, so it's important for individuals following a plant-based diet to be aware of their vitamin B-12 intake and consider taking a supplement if necessary.

Are vegans the only ones affected by a Vitamin B-12 deficiency? 

While individuals following a vegan diet are at a higher risk for vitamin B-12 deficiency, it is possible for meat eaters to be affected as well. The absorption of vitamin B-12 from food can be affected by various factors, such as age, certain medical conditions, and the use of certain medications. For example, as we age, the ability to absorb vitamin B-12 from food decreases, making older adults more susceptible to deficiency. Other conditions such as gastrointestinal disorders, such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, and pernicious anemia, can also affect the absorption of vitamin B-12. Additionally, certain medications such as proton pump inhibitors, metformin and certain antibiotics can also interfere with the absorption of vitamin B-12.

Can the quality of meat you consume have an impact on the quantity of Vitamin B-12 available for your to absorb ?

The quality of the meat you consume can have an impact on the quantity of vitamin B-12 available for your body to absorb.

Meat from grass-fed animals may contain more vitamin B-12 than meat from grain-fed animals. This is because grass-fed animals have a more natural diet, and their meat is less likely to be processed or contain additives.

Organ meats, such as liver, are also a good source of vitamin B-12, but their availability and consumption varies among cultures and personal preferences.

It's worth noting that cooking method also can affect the vitamin B-12 content of meat. Vitamin B-12 is sensitive to heat and can be destroyed during cooking. Eating meat that is raw or lightly cooked will provide you with more vitamin B-12 than meat that is well-done or overcooked.

Overall, the best way to ensure adequate intake of vitamin B-12 is to consume a varied diet with as many ingredients as possible and/or fortified foods and/or supplements, and to consult a healthcare provider for personalised advice.

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Interesting Research & Sources

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4953733/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-b12/

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/89/2/693S/4596795

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-B12

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