One of the basic signs when someone one begins vegetarian or vegan food, which should come from the professional who oversees the diet but can also be found in any source of information, is the supplementation with vitamin B12. This supplementation is basic and necessary as prevention in all its variants vegetarians and vegans.
What is vitamin B12? Why is it so important? Where can people obtain following an omnivorous diet? We answer frequently asked questions about this vitamin below.
Basic knowledge about vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is water-soluble vitamin necessary for certain metabolic processes and the proper functioning of our body. Participates in important functions like protein metabolism, formation of red blood cells or the maintenance of the central nervous system.
The human body contains about 4 milligrams of vitamin B12 that is stored in muscles and liver. In the latter we are able to keep reserves to last three to five years so that its deficit may take a long time to appear. Too much vitamin B12 is very difficult to occur in our body because the extra amount is eliminated through the urine.
Where I can get vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 comes from animal protein sources, so in an omnivorous diet is very easy to get in the quantities we need. It is present in meat and poultry, in the viscera of animals (beef liver, for example), seafood and milk and dairy products and eggs.
In the case of people who follow a vegetarian or vegan strict diet supplementation with B12 should be mandatory from the start. In the case of vegetarianism it is highly recommended to ensure correct amount of B12 in the body: as we said, almost never be an excess and supplementation is inexpensive and simple. Worth supplemented, if only for safety.
Can we find B12 in plant foods? Surely we will have heard of certain algae such as spirulina, containing vitamin B12. Careful with this because vitamin containing is pseudo-B12 or B12 analogs biologically inactive in humans. Not only that, but the consumption of these algae may mask in analytical real B12 deficiency, so it will always be safer supplement with external sources.
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B12 supplements we can take
Vitamin B12 supplements can find them without difficulty within our reach, both in pharmacies and web pages. Although there is in certain cases in the form of patches and injections, the most common in the general population is taking it in the form of sub-lingual tablets (let it fall apart under the tongue). Depending on the amount of vitamin present in the tablets, we will supplement more or less often: usually these pills usually contain between 25 and 100 micrograms (you need to take them daily) or 2000 micrograms (to take it once a week).
Another way of supplement is through enriched with vitamin as yoghurts or vegetable milk foods. It is important that we control the quantities of product and labels (to know how much B12 contain) to reach a minimum of 2.4 micrograms per day. This may be more cumbersome to take a pill once a week, of course.
How much should I take B12?
As we said, the amount of B12 we need is very simple to fill through an omnivorous diet, although the amounts required depend on our sex and our age. According to the EFSA, the daily amount to over 15 generally is 4 micrograms of B12 per day. Pregnant and lactating women are those with special needs: 4.5 micrograms and 5 micrograms per day respectively.
In the case of babies and children vegetarians and vegans, it is also necessary to supplement them. During the first 6 months, children receive B12 through breast milk (as long as the mother is duly supplemented in case of being vegetarian or vegan), and thereafter is necessary to supplement.
What happens if I have B12 deficiency?
The most common consequence of a B12 deficiency is megaloblastic anemia or pernicious anemia. This type of anemia can also occur due to a deficiency of folic acid: it is easy to detect and its solution is usually simple through proper supplementation.
However, a percentage of the population suffering from B12 deficiency can do a symptomatically (without symptoms or can be detected through analysis). The problem in these cases is that, despite the deficit may be delayed (as we said earlier we have a reservation in the liver that can last for years), once you detect may have irreversible consequences such as neurological symptoms.
The duration of reserves of B12 in the liver is not equal for everyone, and tests to determine the level of B12 in our bodies are not very common: why it is so important that vegans and vegetarians we supplements properly, if only by sheer prevention. B12 supplementation is simple, has no side effects and helps prevent potential problems.