Vitamin B12 – Is it for everyone?

So what is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B vitamins. It’s important for normal functioning of the brain and nervous system, as well as playing a vital role in the formation of red blood cells. Like all B vitamins it’s water soluble. Which means it dissolves in water and travels through the bloodstream. It’s true that we need to consistently get enough vitamin B12 into our bodies because we don’t have the ability to store it. 
However, there seems to be some misconceptions about how we get it.

Animal’s produce it right?

A lot of people think that vitamin B12 comes from animals. It often comes up when discussing veganism in the hope to debunk the benefits of a plant based diet.

The fact is though, B12 comes from the soil, well waters and natural water sources. The reason animals have more in their system is because they eat straight from the soil and drink directly from these water sources.
Contrary to what people may think, animals don’t produce the B12 themselves. In today’s society we’re seeing a decrease in B12 in our soil and natural water sources. Our sanitation practices often sterilise the water sources and our farming practices pollute it. So there’s less B12 naturally ingested by the animals. This means that B12 is often added to an animals feed or injected into the animal to make sure that B12 levels are adequate. This tells us two things:

  1. We might as well just take the supplements ourselves (cut out the middle man, or in this case, the middle cow).
  2. Even those who eat meat can be deficient in B12. Whether you’re vegan or not, it’s important to check B12 levels and look at supplementing.

So where can vegans get their vitamin B12?

There are in fact some plant based foods that give us B12.
Nutritional yeast is one source, aka golden flakes of the gods, or nooch for short (I think that’s the official name vegans have given it). I’m sure most vegans would agree that too much is never enough when it comes to nutritional yeast.

Also fortified soy products, plant based milks and some cereals contain B12.

vitamin B12 batman slap

However you would need to be consuming several servings of these foods each day if you were to keep up with the necessary intake of B12. So it’s important to take a B12 supplement to make sure your levels don’t drop too low.

So which B12 Supplement is for me?

Cyano vs Methyl. No it’s not the boss level of a mortal kombat fighting game, but these two words get talked about a lot. Which one is better?

vitamin B12 supplements

Well first of all, either one is better than none. I’ve seen some sites talk about how methylcobalamin is better. Apparently it’s easier for the body to break down and ingest. However, it seems that a majority of the research is done on cyanocobalamin and the studies show that when people are deficient the cyano one will in fact do the job and restore their levels quickly. So I would consider the cost and ease of finding it. Cyanocobalamin is generally cheaper and easier to find, so we often get that one.
Personally, I wouldn’t stress about it too much. Just go for the cyano one and look for a sublingual that is 1000-2500 micro grams (mcg) per dose. Then take it once a week, or more if you know you are deficient.

B12 also comes in the form of a shot from your doctor. However as Dr Greger mentions in the link below, studies have shown that there’s not really much benefit to this and the sublingual ones are just as good.

A dose of vitamin B12 for all

So as you can see, vitamin B12 is extremely important for our bodies. We can certainly get it in some foods, but it’s best to supplement it to make sure we don’t become deficient. This is the only supplement that vegans really need. With a well balanced diet we don’t have to worry about vegan protein supplements or any others for that matter.

Here’s some great videos and links to further your understanding of vitamin B12 and to explain in more detail some of the points covered in this post.

Bite size Vegan interviews Dr. Greger about B12

The Vegan Society talk everything B12

B12: Are you getting it? – by Jack Norris

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