A: That’s a good question. This is important because, according to WebMD, B12 deficiency can boost levels of homocysteine, which is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Bill and I were already taking supplemental B12 when we changed our diet, so we just continued to do so. But you are right if you are consuming a mostly plant-based diet you need B12 either through supplementation or fortified foods. Additionally, it seems for many seniors B12 is not absorbed well so supplementation is often recommended. You can read more at WebMD here.
2 thoughts on “Q: What about vitamin B12? Don’t vegetarians need to take supplements since they don’t eat meat?”
I’d love to know more about this. I’ve just had blood work done to get to the bottom of my recent, acute and pretty severe hair loss. The doctor suggested it could be a B12 deficiency. Blood work will tell us for sure but I have always heard objections to my plant-based diet anchored by the argument that if plant-based is so healthy, why do we need to take a B12 supplement? I mean, I’ll take B12 all day long if it means I am avoiding all of the repercussions of eating meat (which feels like eating Big Macs all day just to get the protein – NO thank you), but I’m just curious about the entire B12 debate in general. Educate us, Miss Julie!
Dayna, this is an interesting topic, and one that seems to bring about heated discussion on a variety of forums regarding protein sources and the pros and cons of vegetarianism.
From what I understand, B12 is derived in a sense from the ground in the form of bacteria that is eaten by animals and then synthesized in their intestinal tracts, making it available in their meat. Some believe the intestinal tracts of humans were able to perform this synthesis at a much earlier time in our evolution, before we began eating meat, but I’m sure that is a highly debatable topic.
Interestingly, seafood, especially shellfish, is actually highest in B12 as a result of the algae they consume. B12 is also found abundantly in dairy and eggs. Two eggs contain about as much B12 as 3 ounces of broiled sirloin. Here’s a factsheet from the National Institute of Health that provides a listing for sources of B12.
Of further note, according to b12d.org, “modern farming methods require farmers to inject B12 (90% of the world’s production of Vitamin B12 is for farm animals). It could be because of the speed animals are grown, or pesticides/ fertilisers on the grass, or antibiotics fed to keep the animals free from disease”.
So I suppose you could look at it like this, you can get your B12 supplement through an injection in the meat you later consume, or just take the supplement yourself.