Should vegans take B12 supplements?

Thursday, 9 June 2016
Should vegans take B12 supplements?

Vitamin B12. It's something we all need, although it is something that is talked about a lot more among the vegan community because it's the only vitamin that you cannot get naturally from a plant-based diet. Before I started to consider going vegan and began researching more into the vegan lifestyle, I really wasn't aware of vitamin B12, and I'm sure many others aren't too. If you eat meat, dairy and eggs then you will get your B12 from these sources without even realising it. Vegans, on the other hand, don't and so it's something that is a lot more important for us to think about and be conscious of.

I wanted to write this post to try and share a little of what I've learned about B12. There is so much information out there about this vitamin and, like most things, all the guidance tells you different things. I've read a lot and I've pulled this post together using the sources I consider to be the most reliable, plus a little of my own personal experience. I hope it will be helpful, but I would encourage you to go and do your own research too if B12 is something you would like to learn more about. I will leave links to all the sources I have used at the bottom of this post so you can have a look at those too. 

Why is B12 important and where do you get it? 

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in our bodies, including making red blood cells, keeping the immune system healthy and helping to release energy from the food we eat. The NHS list good sources of B12 as being: meat, salmon, cod, milk, cheese, eggs and some fortified breakfast cereals, which of course, aside from the latter none of which us vegans eat. 

The reason for these products containing good amounts of B12 is because it is created by bacteria within the animals bodies. Many animals are also given B12 supplements. Both of these sources then make their way into the animal products that humans eat.

B12 Deficiency  

A deficiency in B12 can make you pretty damn unwell if your levels are dangerously low. Symptoms of B12 deficiency can include: tiredness, a feeling of not having enough energy, a sore tongue, irritability, personality changes and poor memory. Low levels of B12 can also cause anemia, nervous system damage and complications during pregnancy.

Your body can store vitamin B12 for between two and four years (crazy, right?!) so it might take a while for you to show any symptoms of a deficiency after you have changed your diet. Because of this, you might not make the connection between your vegan diet and how you are feeling, so it's super important to start getting good vegan sources of B12 as soon as you change your diet to ensure that you maintain your body's supplies.

Should vegans take B12 supplements?

Vegan sources of B12

The two best ways to ensure you are getting enough B12 as a vegan is to either eat fortified foods throughout the day or to take a supplement of the vitamin. Vegan foods that are usually fortified include non-dairy

There are lots of different types of B12 supplements that you can take whether it be in tablet form, a spray or an injection. I personally choose to take a daily supplement pill, which you can almost always pick up from your local health foods store, alternatively, there are lots of options available online. The ones I buy usually cost around £5 for 100 tablets so they aren't expensive at all, and it is always worth spending money for good health.

A little about my experience 

Before I became vegan (although I had been eating a mostly vegan diet for many months prior to finally cutting out dairy and eggs completely), I went through a period of feeling like I had no energy at all. I couldn't understand what was wrong because I was definitely eating enough and getting enough sleep. After a few visits to the doctor, I was put on iron supplements as my levels were very slightly lower than normal but this made no difference at all. It was only once I started learning more about the vegan diet that I stumbled across the importance of B12 and thought that it was quite likely I was running a little low on the vitamin as I was vegetarian, didn't drink milk or eat eggs and rarely ate cheese or yoghurts, and had eaten a diet like this for over a year. I started taking a supplement a few months ago and I actually do feel quite a bit better now. I wouldn't say I am 100% where I would like to be but I definitely feel a lot more energised than I did before. I can't say for sure that it was a lack of B12 that was causing my symptoms as I was never tested but it's really the only thing I've changed so it must have had a little something to do with it. I'm totally no expert though. 

So, B12 is pretty bloody important and is definitely something that vegans need to be aware of. It's nothing to worry too much about though as it is easy to get enough and put your mind at ease. The main thing is that you are taking steps to keep your levels up in whatever way works best for you.

What are your thoughts on B12? 


The information contain within this post was gathered from the following sources as well as from my own personal experience:  

Post Comment
Post a Comment