- pale skin
- rapid heartbeat
- bleeding gums
- weakness and fatigue
- sore tongue
- weight loss
- sleeping difficulties
long term deficiency can lead to:
- difficulty walking or standing
- memory loss
- impaired vision
- tingling in toes or fingers
- or severe damage to the nervous system
A common misnomer is that vegans are the only group at risk for B12 deficiency, but the fact of the matter is that anyone can be at risk. The deficiency is directly correlated to how well your body absorbs B12, not necessarily how much you consume. At risk is anyone that:
- consumes excessive amounts of alcohol
- is taking certain antibiotics
- uses acid reducing drugs
- has celiac or Chron’s disease
- has other conditions affecting the small intestine (parasites, bacteria)
- has lack of protein intrinsic factor
- any other digestive problems with absorption of food
Studies between meat eaters and non meat eaters were also done that showed meat eaters can be just as deficient in B12 as some vegans.
So where does it come from?
The natural B12 that we need comes from fertile soil. Plants nor animals can independently make B12. Only microorganisms have the enzymes necessary for biosynthesis.
Much of this bacteria lives in our digestive tracts and the digestive tracts of animals. Ingestion of the bacteria would then be made to B12 and absorbed by our bodies, providing there is nothing inhibiting this from happening.
The theory is that eating animals would allow us to obtain the B12 in their digestive tracts, however, animals that are factory farmed have never eaten natural B12. They instead eat soy and corn (not natural to their diet), are then injected with hormones, antibiotics and conventional supplements containing B12 that are not always the best choice.
So where can vegan get B12?
The body’s liver stores B12 and can store it for several years. Therefore the daily amount needed is rather low. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements adults need 2.4 mcg per day.
Fortified foods such as soy milk or cereals contain a good amount of B12. Nutritional yeast also contains B12 (and is quite tasty too). A good vegan vitamin supplement can be easily found in any health food store.
Rumors are around that fermented foods, such as kombucha could be a possible source. Nori seaweed from Japan also come up as a possible source. However, no studies have been extensive enough to report findings sufficient for B12.