Vitamin B 12Vitamin B 12 is one of the most important B vitamins for people to have in their diet. Because it is involved in the production of red blood cells, a lack of vitamin B 12 can cause a number of different forms of anemia. Some vitamin B 12 anemic conditions can lead to permanent brain damage.
The good news is, so long as you eat meat with any kind of regularity, even just once a week, you are probably get plenty of vitamin B 12 in your diet. Even if you are a vegetarian, just about any animal product is also rich in the essential nutrient. Eggs, cheese, dairy products, or any number of fortified cereals and soy products offer plenty of vitamin B 12.
The people most in danger of a vitamin B 12 deficiency are vegans, who do not eat any kind of animal product including fortified grains or fortified soy products. It is therefore extremely important for vegans to take vitamin B 12 supplements regularly. Contrary to many claims that certain vegetables have vitamin B 12, there is actually only one plant proven to have a form of B 12 that humans can use, and that is the Chinese herb Dang Gui. Since Dang Gui isn’t exactly in high supply everywhere, most vegans will have to take supplements.
If you are a vegan, or thinking of becoming one, it’s a good idea to talk it over with your doctor. If you’ve been a vegan for sometime and haven’t had a physical including a blood work up, you should go in for one as soon as possible, even if you feel fine. A vitamin B 12 deficiency can take years to develop, and by the time you start to experience the anemia symptoms, you are already in danger of permanent brain damage.
People who have had part or all of their stomach removed are also in danger of a vitamin B 12 deficiency. The parietal cells in your stomach, the same ones that make the acid that aids in digestion, also make a glycoprotein called ‘intrinsic factor’, which is required for vitamin B 12 to be absorbed. Without the intrinsic factor, you have to eat extremely large amounts of vitamin B 12 to get the amount you need to avoid anemia.
Supplements and certain vitamin B 12 rich foods, such as calves liver, may provide enough B 12 for people with partially or wholly removed stomachs to get enough of the vitamin. If not, regular vitamin B 12 injections may be required.
When I was vegan, I supplemented with Miso, a fermented soy product that is a natural source of Vitamin B 12. To this day, I still enjoy the odd cup of Miso.