Plant foods do not naturally contain vitamin B12, so people who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet should make sure they get enough each day to avoid a deficiency. A lack of vitamin B12 can have serious health consequences, such as pernicious anaemia. The only reliable way to get B12 as a vegan is to take supplements or eat foods fortified with this vitamin. It is very important for all vegans to ensure that they have an adequate intake of B12, through fortified foods or supplements.
Vitamin B12 supplements for vegans can be purchased at most health food stores, such as Holland and Barrett. While vitamin B12 is certainly the most common among vegan supplements, B12 deficiency is not exclusive to vegans who do not take supplements. Reports that B12 has been measured in a food are not enough to qualify that food as a reliable source of B12. Every case of B12 deficiency in a vegan infant or misinformed adult is a tragedy and brings veganism into disrepute.
The only scientifically proven way for vegans to achieve these levels is to consume B12-fortified foods or take a vitamin B12 supplement. The availability of fortified foods varies from country to country and the amounts of B12 vary from brand to brand, so ensuring an adequate supply of B12 from fortified foods requires reading labels and thinking about an appropriate guideline to suit individual tastes and local products. Vegans who consume adequate amounts of fortified foods or B12 supplements are much less likely to suffer from B12 deficiency than the typical meat eater. Plant foods do not produce vitamin B12, so it is vital that vegans find alternative sources of vitamin B12 to stay in the best health.
Studies suggest that vegan and vegetarian diets may help reduce the risk of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes, compared to a diet that includes high amounts of animal foods. Knowing which foods contain naturally occurring vitamin B12 isn’t much help when none of those foods are an option for your diet. With the right fortified foods and supplements, vegans and others who follow plant-based diets can get the vitamin B12 they need to stay healthy and active. By opting for fortified foods or B12 supplements, vegans are getting their B12 from the same source as every other animal on the planet – microorganisms – without causing suffering to any sentient beings or causing environmental damage.
In over 60 years of vegan experimentation, only B12-fortified foods and B12 supplements have proven to be reliable sources of B12, capable of supporting optimal health. For vegans and those following whole-food, plant-based diets, it is essential to follow vitamin B12 intake.