While most micronutrients are found in abundance in a vegan diet, there is one vitamin that requires special consideration: vitamin B12 (cobalamin). This vitamin rarely occurs in plant foods, and if so, only in very small amounts. In order to ensure an adequate supply of vitamin B12, vegans are advised to take vitamin B12 supplements or eat specially fortified foods. Without supplementation, there is an increased risk of deficiency – as recent data from a Czech study confirm.
Are vegans at risk? Experts around the world are still debating this issue to this day. Without question, however, a profound knowledge of nutrition is an important prerequisite for a properly balanced vegan diet that covers all your nutritional needs. The ideal basis is a varied selection of fruit and vegetables, soya and cereal products, pulses, nuts, grains and seeds. In addition, vegans would be well advised to take a reliable vitamin B12 supplement and make sure that their diet covers their iodine, calcium, vitamin D, iron, omega-3 fatty acids and protein needs.
Screening: B12 status in vegans and non-vegans
The goal of this study was to determine the relationship between the use of dietary supplements and the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency based on a vegan versus non-vegan sample group in the Czech Republic. 151 healthy vegans (72 women, 79 men) and 85 healthy non-vegans were recruited for the screening and selected blood parameters were determined for all the participants.
The results of the blood analyses showed that the vegan group had lower overall cobalamin, hemoglobin and ferritin levels compared to the non-vegan group, but higher folate and MCV levels. In comparison, the study found that the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency was significantly higher in vegans who did not take B12 supplements than in vegans who regularly took supplements. A comparison of the data also showed that vegans who took vitamin B12 supplements on a regular basis had similar B12 and holotranscobalamin levels to non-vegans.
Good supplements for a good supply
According to the researchers, these data once again emphasize the link between supplementation and a lower risk of vitamin B12 deficiency in vegans. The results also confirm the necessity of monitoring B12 status in people who have adopted a purely plant-based diet and of raising awareness of the importance of vitamin B12 supplementation.