Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) - occurrence - deficiency - intake
Word has probably spread, especially among vegans, about how important the intake of the water-soluble vitamin B12 is for health. And for "omnivores" it is a common argument they use when they want to "defend" their meat consumption.
Table of contents:
- Vitamin B12
- Why is it often not enough to "just" eat enough vitamin B12?
- Consequences of a vitamin B12 deficiency
- Vitamin B12 through Nutri-Plus vitamin B12 lozenges
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) has many functions in the body.
It plays an important role in cell division, the formation of red blood cells and the function of the nervous system. It is also closely linked to folate metabolism. It converts inactive folate back into the active form. Another important function involves the conversion of homocysteine to methionine.
In fact, vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products, especially meat and fish, and is therefore considered a critical nutrient in the vegan diet. Strictly speaking, bacteria are THE source of vitamin B12. So soil and dirt could also cover our needs. But who wants that ... !
Cobalamin is produced by microorganisms such as bacteria in the gut. Herbivorous animals therefore cover their requirements almost entirely through self-synthesis in the intestinal and rumen flora. The animals also absorb the vitamin when eating on pasture, as the microorganisms enter the soil via the animals' faeces.These vitamin-producing bacteria are also present in the human large intestine. As cobalamin is absorbed via the instrinsic factor in the small intestine, the vitamin produced cannot be used and is excreted in the faeces. Guinea pigs, for example, cover their vitamin requirements by eating their own faeces. As this is not an option for humans, vitamin B12 supplementation is recommended, especially for vegan diets.However, anyone who believes that animals produce their own vitamin B12 in today's factory farming is wrong. Due to the sterile environment, the animals no longer absorb the vitamin from their food. The large quantities of antibiotics also ensure that the intestinal wall of the animals is damaged and therefore the vitamin cannot be synthesised. This is why animals in factory farming are also given cobalamin via concentrated feed or an injection. The B12 in meat therefore does not come from the animal itself in around 98% of cases, which many people do not realise. Vegans bypass this step by simply ingesting the vitamin directly.Vegetables preserved by lactic acid fermentation (e.g. sauerkraut) have a very low B12 content, which does not provide sufficient quantities for human requirements.
Unfermented plant foods, such as spirulina, only contain vitamin B12 analogues, which have almost no biological effectiveness in mammals.
Recent studies indicate that two algae contain larger amounts of utilisable vitamin B12 and could therefore be considered as possible plant sources: Nori & Chlorella
However, further research is needed to verify whether they actually guarantee a sufficient supply.
Vegans and some vegetarians are therefore reliant on vitamin B12 supplements to cover their requirements. In practice, this is also much easier to implement.
Why is it often not enough to "just" eat enough vitamin B12?
The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends an intake of 3 µg per day. However, if the body's own stores are reduced, excretion is almost zero. Therefore, even with a cobalamin-free diet, it takes several years until the stores are completely depleted and deficiency symptoms occur.Inadequate intake of vitamin B12 through food is the rarer cause of a deficiency.
In addition to medication and alcohol, an absorption disorder (malabsorption) in the gastrointestinal tract is the most common reason for an undersupply:
The organism then lacks the intrinsic factor in the gastric juice, which is essential for B12 absorption (it enables B12 transport into the intestinal cells)
Even if the small intestine is damaged, sufficient absorption can no longer be guaranteed. Even the smallest disturbances in the gastrointestinal tract can therefore pose a risk.
Chronic patients and older people are therefore particularly affected, as absorption capacity is reduced in old age.
Consequences of a vitamin B12 deficiency
A deficiency occurs slowly and gradually, as the body can store the vitamin for a very long time (approx. 2-3 years).
An untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can have the following effects, among others:
- Infants & children: developmental delays and permanent cognitive and motor damage
- Anaemia (but can be masked by folic acid!)*
- Neurological damage: concentration disorders, depression, psychosis, etc.
- Diffuse symptoms: Tiredness, general weakness, poor concentration, pallor of the skin and mucous membranes, food intolerances, digestive disorders, etc.
*A good folic acid supply masks one in the blood!
Changes in the blood appear earlier than these clinical symptoms. If there is a cobalamin deficiency, homocysteine accumulates in the blood. High homocysteine levels are therefore always a sign of a deficiency. A high homocysteine level in the blood can damage cells and promote oxidative stress.If a pregnant woman has a low B12 level, her baby will already be born with a B12 deficiency. There is also too little of the important vitamin in breast milk, which can lead to a serious deficiency with drastic deficiency symptoms in the newborn.
Vitamin B12 with Nutri-Plus vitamin B12 lozenges
Since cobalamin is found almost exclusively in animal foods, supplementation with the vitamin is advisable. In addition, the various B vitamins sometimes work closely together and an excessive supply of one vitamin can lead to a deficiency of another. We recommend taking our Nutri Plus Vegan Essentials - A-Z supplement.
Nutri-Plus Vegan Essentials - A-Z supplement contains a combination of micronutrients and valuable vitamin B12. Taking our product therefore prevents vitamin deficiency. Our other orthomolecular products also contain the vitamin, so another product can also be taken.
Nutri-Plus Vegan Essentials - A-Z supplement is naturally 100% plant-based. Click here to go to our product.
- Guide to nutritional medicine (Koula-Jenik et al.)
- Vegetarian nutrition (C. Leitzmann, M. Keller)