This micronutrient is essential for the body, and that’s why you should know how much you need to consume every day if you’ve made the transition to veganism or vegetarianism.
Sandra Milena Ramírez
Nutritionist and dietician
In order to understand why vitamin B12 is an essential part of our diet, it’s important to understand its function in the body. Sandra Milena Ramírez, a nutritionist and dietician at Nutralser, explains that “vitamins are required in small amounts- that’s why they’re called micronutrients. Most vitamins, apart from vitamins D, K, B1, B2 and folic acid, are not produced by our body, and if they are only insufficient amounts are obtained”. For this reason, we have to supply the organism with them through food or supplements.
In the case of vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin and part of the B complex, its main function is to contribute to the formation of blood cells. “This prevents anemia and helps the central nervous system to function correctly. It is also associated with preventing symptoms linked to dementia and some heart diseases”, the nutritionist notes.
Ramírez adds that it is only provided by foods of animal origin such as milk, eggs, meat and cheese. That’s why it’s so important to have the support of a health professional when you make a dietary transition to veganism or vegetarianism. With regard to vegans, their diet is based on the consumption of food of plant origin and doesn’t include any animal protein. “Support improves the process and avoids health complications”, she says.
What happens when a deficiency exists?
When the transition is not made in the right way, nutritional problems emerge that can become more complex in the long term. “It can cause nutritional anemia, and in the event of very severe deficiencies the symptoms are primarily seen at neurological level”, Ramírez continues. They manifest themselves through cramps in the fingers and toes, reduced memory and changes in personality. Older adults are the most at-risk group due to age-associated changes in the gastric mucosa. Babies born to mothers with a vitamin B12 deficiency are also included in this high-risk group.
Adopting a nutritional lifestyle like veganism goes beyond cutting out certain foods, following a trend or embracing a personal ideology. Regardless of the intention behind the change, the priority must be bodily health and wellbeing. To maintain a balance, Ramírez concludes that professional support and an annual check-up for this vitamin is vital, in order to establish a diet plan that will satisfy each individual’s needs. •
Supplementing the body with vitamin B12 is the most effective way to eat a vegan diet without affecting the body’s functions. 2.4mg Is the recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 for average adults, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Key factors for preventing a vitamin B12 deficiency
According to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, other sources that can provide vitamin B12 are fortified foods and nutritional supplements such as soy and rice drinks, nutritional yeast, some breakfast cereals, and meat analogues. If these are not consumed, daily supplements are required.
It’s important to be aware that no non-fortified food of plant origin contains a significant amount of active vitamin B12.