Quite a common question regarding the vegan diet is whether it’s necessary to supplement Vitamin B12 or not. The question after that would be “how do I find the best vegan multivitamin in the UK?”, but that’s for another article… In this article that you’re reading right now, we’ll go through whether vegans really do need to supplement B12, or if it’s possible to consume enough of this essential vitamin through a vegan diet.
Is B12 deficiency in vegans a myth?
It’s believed by some vegans that B12 deficiency is a myth. Now, we’re not saying that all vegans will suffer from B12 deficiency without carefully planning their diet – but it’s certainly something that people should be aware of. Speaking to the BBC in an article titled ‘Vegans need to be aware of B12 deficiency risk‘, Tim Saunders (emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London) stated: “Of all the micronutrients, B12 is the one we’re most concerned about. I’m concerned many people think B12 deficiency is a myth.”
As a result, Vitamin B12 deficiency is certainly a very real problem in vegans who do not keep an eye on consuming adequate levels of this nutrient. But why is it an issue with those following the vegan diet and not others? We’ll explain in the section below…
Vitamin B12 isn’t found in Plant Foods
By now you’re probably asking yourself: “why are only vegans at risk of suffering from B12 deficiency?” It’s no secret that B12 is not found in any plant foods; this vitamin is mainly found in animal products such as milk, eggs, meat and fish. For this reason, it’s much easier for vegetarians, pescatarians and meat-eaters to obtain adequate levels of this nutrient through their diets.
In fact, Vitamin B12 not being found in plant foods is the #1 reason why many nutritionists recommend those following a vegan diet to supplement with either a multivitamin or B12. Fortified foods are another option for vegans.
If you’re strongly against supplements for any reason, then another option available to you are fortified foods. The Vegan Society actually recommends eating fortified foods two or three times per day in order for those following a vegan diet to obtain enough Vitamin B12.
Are there any alternative B12 sources other than fortified foods or supplements?
Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any reliable alternatives to fortified foods or supplements, in terms of B12 sources for vegans. In fact, the Vegan Society has even warned: “If for any reason you choose not to use fortified foods or supplements, you should recognise that you are carrying out a dangerous experiment – one that many have tried before with consistently low levels of success”. That’s a pretty strong statement above. So, if you are currently following, or considering giving the vegan diet a try, you should make sure to include Vitamin B12 fortified foods or supplements (such as a multivitamin containing Vitamin B12) in your diet too.