“There is no debate!  B12 deficiency in vegans is real and dangerous!”

Vitamin B12 Deficiency In Vegans Is Risky

What Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

B12 is, “A water-soluble vitamin of animal origin {or plant} required for DNA synthesis.  It is a glycoprotein produced and secreted by the gastric parietal cells, and is absorbed from the GI tract bound to intrinsic factor; the body stores up to one years’ worth of vitamin B12 in the liver, kidneys and heart.” (Farlex Medical Dictionary)

Am I Deficient? 

Today we are looking at the risks of B12 deficiency, particularly in vegans, and guide you through the steps you should take to get a proper diagnosis and treatment.  If you are feeling extreme fatigue and weakness, persistent low mood and irritability, and/or tingling in your feet and hands, today’s discussion will be helpful to you.

Don’t Mess Around With Vitamin B12 Deficiency

First, if you are reading this article and think that you might suffer from a B12 deficiency, stop before you go any further!  Make an appointment with your family physician and get tested immediately!  I cannot emphasize this enough.  A serious B12 deficiency is risky.  Using the internet for professional medical advice is unsafe and treacherous.

Not convinced?  B12 deficiency has been called the, “Silent epidemic with serous consequences.”  In a report from the Tufts University, it was found that 40% of people between the ages of 26 and 83, had low blood plasma levels of B12, levels that are known to result in neurological symptoms and damage when not addressed in time.

Who Is Susceptible?

People that avoid animal products, lack Intrinsic Factor (a secretion that binds B12 to enable absorption), and have inadequate stomach acid, are particularly susceptible to vitamin B12 deficiency.  Thus, there are both personal choice factors (e.g.; diet), and organic factors at play.  A proper assessment by your physician will determine your risk and origin.

Are Vegans At Greater Risk? 

Yes!  If you eat a plant-based vegan diet, you are at increased risk of B12 deficiency, especially if you do not consume analog meats and nut milks.

The raw food vegan movement is at particular risk.  Raw vegans often promote the notion that, “everything you need for your body can be found through raw uncooked food.”  This is bad advice from a movement motivated by principles over evidence.

Unfortunately, regardless of the risk, many will not be dissuaded. In fact, in defense of their extreme views, Raw Food Explained writes, “Never believe the final conclusions of a flesh eating scientist.”

Once you understand how we acquire, absorb, and utilize this precocious nutrient, there is no questions about it – B12 is crucial and deserves immediate attention, especially for vegans that have removed B12 rich intestinal meats from their diets, or their analog counterparts.

Vegan Physicians Share Their Views

The following video is from Healthy Lifestyle Expo in 2014.  Physicians promoting a plant-based diet weigh-in on B12, providing clear direction and advice.  You will notice moderate disagreement between one particular physician and the rest of the group.  However, the majority pull no punches about the B12 deficiency they see on a regular basis, and the associated risks:

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

According to The Nutrition Source at Harvard University,

“Symptoms of B12 deficiency include memory loss, disorientation, hallucinations, and tingling in the arms and legs.”

In fact, some people diagnosed with dementia are actually suffering from B12 deficiency.  While presentations in family medicine are generally not that severe, it is important to note the extent of the damage that can be done.  Furthermore, many of the symptoms can be treated, and even reversed.  But it is important to note that some damage is irreversible if treatment is not started within six months of when the first symptoms were seen.

Prevention and Consideration

The best prevention is keeping a keen eye on what we consume.  If you eat animal products, there is very little worry, unless  you have problems with intrinsic factor or low levels of stomach acid.  Vegans should focus on consuming a healthy amount of analog proteins (Tofurky) and fortified nut milks.  By the way, if you make your own nut milk, it will not be fortified.  At the risk of stating the obvious, many do not know this.

Also keep in mind that some health conditions can make it difficult for your body to absorb B12.  These include, Crohn disease, chronic alcoholism, stomach and weight loss surgeries, and taking prescription antacids for heartburn for an extended period of time.

Treatment For Vitamin B12 Deficiency

As a standard of care at the Mayo Clinic, treatment options are as follows:

  1. For mild cases, consider changes to diet and taking a B12 supplements (oral or nasal).
  2. B12 injections are merited for sever deficiency.  These injections are intramuscular and have to be done every month.

What To Do If You Think You Are Deficient

So, you have been on a plant-based diet for a little over a year.  You notice a lack of skip in your step and overall weakness compared to where you were once before.  You have even started an exercise program but wonder why your recovery is delayed between workouts.  You also know that it is more common to see deficiency in vegans compared to the general population (although it is common in both).  Are you B12 deficient?

If you have even the siltiest of concern, it is important to see your doctor.  Don’t wait out the storm.  It is better to get assessed sooner than later.  Your doctor will give you a requisition to measure levels of methylmalonic acid in your blood, a protein byproduct of B12 absorption.  They are unlikely to measure actual B12 plasma levels as this is unreliable.  Once you have the results,   you doctor will talk about treatment options.

There Are Vegan Solutions

For plant-based folks, there are vegan B12 supplements available on the market.  Head on over to Whole Foods where you will find a variety of brands.  I strongly suggest you follow the recommendations from your physician after reviewing your blood work results.  This will determine a proper course of action.

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Dangerous Vitamin B12 Deficiency In Vegans – Symptoms and Treatment was last modified: September 12th, 2017 by Jerod Killick
  • Do not take any risks when it comes to B12 – Pay close attention and get tested if you worry in the least!