So, Lets talk B12…

So, let’s talk B12…
I always say that there isn’t anything we need that we can’t get from plants… and that’s not entirely true. Vitamin B12 is a big deal in the vegan community. Not only because of the serious risks that come with being deficient, but the only reliable source of it is foods or drinks that are fortified with the vitamin, supplements, or animal products. That’s right, either supplement or eat animals, right? That’s proof that being vegan isn’t sustainable or natural! Well, not exactly…..

What is B12 and Where Does It Come From?


B12 actually comes from a bacteria, which is technically neither a plant or an animal. It is essential for a healthy nervous system, red blood count, and DNA production. Animal products have B12 in them because often times these animals are exposed to the bacteria and naturally ingest it, but to be safe farmers typically supplement their animals with B12 injections as well. Animals don’t naturally have all this B12 either (though, if healthy, their gut does produce some). If you are a healthy person under the age of 50, you can probably get enough from eating animal products, but according to the FDA you’ll probably get some fecal matter as well.

With modern times, we’ve become cleaner and most plants are not only sanitized, but treated with pesticides and antibiotics before they make it to you, which kill bacteria growth, like B12. Once upon a time, you could go out in your own organic garden and eat the fresh fruits and veggies right off the stem, ingesting B12 right from nature without much worry about deficiency. Today, however, that’s nearly impossible; so we supplement.

What are the signs that you may be B12 deficient?

A blog post by Harvard Medical School gives this list:

b12 on the brain
Case Reports in Medicine
  • “strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
  • difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
  • anemia
  • a swollen, inflamed tongue
  • difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
  • weakness
  • fatigue

B12 deficiency isn’t something to take lightly. Untreated it can cause serious neurological and/or blood issues.

How to I make sure I’m getting enough?

The great news is that is EASY to keep a check on your B12! Not only is it as simple as asking your doctor for a blood test to check your levels, so very many foods and drinks are fortified with B12. Likely because research shows as many as 40% of Americans, with various eating choices, are lacking in the B12 department. This may be because the absorption of B12 isn’t quite so black and white.

Many factors can aid in inadequate B12 in the body, from smoking and drinking to certain gastrointestinal problems and the use of antacids. A recent study on genes and nutrition confirmed that genetics even play a role in our ability to metabolize B12. Age weighs in as a factor as well, but interestingly enough, seemingly only from protein-bound sources, like animal products. The ability to absorb crystalline forms of B12, like those found in fortified foods and supplements, doesn’t show any decrease with age. Adults over 50, or those with conditions that interfere with nutrient absorption, even with the most animal dense diet are urged to take a B12 supplement because of their lack of absorption of the very important nutrient from animal proteins.

I am not saying vegans shouldn’t be concerned with their B12 intake, because they most definitely should. I’m saying that not just vegans should be, and its possible, with all the fortified options today, that there could be better places to get it rather than animal products like typically suggested; especially if you already have a hard time keeping your B12 levels healthy.



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