Vegan MoFo #7: All About B12
What IS Vitamin B12, that thing that you'll often hear vegans talking about? Why is it so important? What does it do? How do we get it?
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is typically found in animal-based products like meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. It is the ONLY vitamin that is not able to obtained by eating a plant-based diet. Because of this, vegans needs to either take a B12 supplement once daily (of at least 10 micrograms), one a week (of at least 2000 micrograms), or eat food that has been fortified with B12 2-3 times a day (containing at least 3 micrograms). These fortified foods can include plant milks, soy products, cereals, and our good friend nutritional yeast, among other things. Personally, I take a B12 supplement once a day.
B12 is great for your memory, improving your mood and energy levels, the immune system, slowing aging, preventing heart disease, and weak bones among MANY other things. It is also required for the maintenance and development of the brain, nerves, and blood cells. Because the human body stores several years worth of B12 in the liver, becoming B12 deficient is extremely rare, but it can still happen. If you are deficient, symptoms may not even appear for five years! Because it's such a slow process, I still recommend taking a supplement to make sure you get enough B12.
Although most vegans get enough B12 in their diet, two groups are especially at risk: raw/macrobiotic vegans (because they do not eat the fortified foods that you can buy) and breastfeeding babies of vegan mommies who naturally don't have much B12.
If you are deficient, you should look for the following symptoms: numbness, reduced sensitivity to pain, loss of energy, tingling, hallucinations, blurred vision, sore tongue, and poor memory, among others. In infants, this may show as a loss of appetite/energy and a failure to thrive. All symptoms can be reversed simply by taking a B12 supplement.
Do you feel you are getting enough B12 in your diet? Do you take a daily multivitamin?