Vitamin B12 supplementation in the vegan diet

Do you follow a vegan diet? In that case, it is important that you know that it is usually essential to supplement with vitamin B12 to avoid deficits.

Last update: June 10, 2021

Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B12 in the vegan diet is key to preventing health problems. This type of diet is deficient in certain nutrients, so supplementation with vitamin B12 may be necessary to correct such alterations.

Keep in mind that one of the principles of healthy eating is variety. The vegan diet is about a restrictive plan. For this reason, it must be planned in an optimal way to ensure the correct consumption of all the essential elements.

Why is vitamin B12 a concern in the vegan diet?

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient found only in foods of animal origin. For this reason, if the consumption of them is restricted, a deficiency occurs that can cause pathologies. It is also an essential micronutrient, which means that the body is not capable of producing it itself.

Despite being a water-soluble vitamin, there are certain reserves of vitamin B12 in the body. For this reason, the consequences of the deficit are not experienced in a short period of time. It may take weeks for symptoms to appear.

To find out more: Vegan meat substitutes: what are the best options?

What consequences can a vitamin B12 deficiency have?

The main consequence of vitamin B12 deficiency is the development of megaloblastic anemia, according to a study published in the journal American Family Physician. There are alterations in the formation of red blood cells, which triggers an inefficient transport of oxygen through the blood and the appearance of tiredness and chronic fatigue.

To reverse the problem it is necessary to restore the supply of the nutrient through diet. Otherwise, the symptoms will not stop. Even, many signs can lead to suspect the existence of other underlying pathologies, such as hypothyroidism.

Anemia caused by vitamin B12 deficiency has symptoms similar to those of other anemias, with tiredness and fatigue.

How to get enough vitamin B12 in the vegan diet?

There is a way to get enough vitamin B12 in a vegan diet without specifically resorting to supplementation. One of these strategies is to consume foods enriched with the nutrient 2 or 3 times a day. The optimum is to ensure the contribution of 3 micrograms per day.

Certain products aimed at vegans, such as plant drinks, are enriched with the substance. In fact, 1 microgram per serving is provided in them, so it would be enough to ensure the intake of 3 servings per day.

Supplementation

Despite the possibility of including fortified foods in the diet, supplementation with vitamin B12 is often advised in the context of vegan diets. This is evidenced by an investigation published in the journal Nutrients. In this way, the risks of developing anemia are greatly reduced.

Ideally, opt for a daily supplement that provides 10 micrograms or a weekly supplement that provides 2,000 micrograms. With this dose it would be enough to prevent the development of the pathology.

Keep in mind that in the context of athletes the needs may be greater. This is confirmed by a study published in the journal Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. It is because athletes have higher micronutrient requirements, as a general rule. They have greater sweat losses and require more work from the body.

When to visit a professional?

Before starting a vegan diet it is important to consult with a professional to pose it correctly. Not only is it necessary to include a vitamin B12 supplement, but it may be necessary to supplement with other essential micronutrients.

In addition, in the case of experiencing fatigue or tiredness and not finding a logical reason, it is also advisable to consult with the specialist. Also if you lose weight for no reason. Diagnostic tests may be ordered to check the levels of vitamin B12 and other nutrients.

Faced with chronic fatigue, lack of strength, incorrect perception of ambient temperatures or lack of concentration, it is advisable to measure nutrients and micronutrients in the blood.

Vitamin B12 supplementation is necessary in the context of the vegan diet

As commented, special attention must be paid to the contribution of vitamin B12 in the vegan diet. The inclusion of supplements is usually recommended in order to prevent deficits.

Although it is true that the nutrient can be obtained through the consumption of enriched products, the best option is to ensure its daily presence through dietary supplements. In this sense, it should always be a nutrition professional who determines them.

A nutritionist is trained to give advice about which is the best supplement. In the same way, it will help to develop menus that are not lacking or endanger health.

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