Why you should supplement with vitamin B12
by Payal Shah on May 31, 2022
In the world of nutrition, vitamins are one of six essential nutrients. Without vitamins, our bodies just couldn’t function, our wounds wouldn’t heal, and our immune systems would completely shut down.
B12 is one of the most important and complex vitamins that our bodies require. Without enough B12 in our system, the consequences to our health can be devastating. We need it to make DNA, red blood cells, and even maintain our central nervous system. Deficiencies can be as severe as irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system and may even impact fertility.
Vegans are regularly reminded to keep up with their B12 levels, but those who are nonveg aren’t 100% protected, either. Anyone can develop a deficiency in B12, and it happens to be one of the most common deficiencies worldwide. It’s not just about poor intake, it can also be due to poor absorption.
Where does B12 come from?
B12 is produced by some bacteria, yeast, and archaea. While it is found in animal products, it cannot be manufactured by the animals themselves. Microorganisms that produce B12 can be found in manure, unsanitized water, soil, and so forth. Clearly, we shouldn’t be getting our B12 from those sources- but animals we use for food do. Their unclean environments, untreated water, and contaminated sources of food expose animals to microorganisms that produce B12. Over a lifetime, it accumulates and ends up in the final product.
Plants can’t produce B12 on their own, but they used to contain more of it. Modern hygienic practices kill bacteria for our health and safety. In addition, soil today is less nutritious due to the introduction of pesticides in agriculture.
Some plant foods still contain B12, including certain mushrooms and seaweed, but it isn’t reliable over the long-term. So it’s not that plants can’t be a source of B12, our modern agricultural practices have just changed.
How much B12 do I need?
A healthy range of B12 in your body is between 190 and 950 mg/mL. The easiest way to check the amount of B12 in your system is through a blood test. Consult with a professional before checking your levels.
Since animal products contain B12, vegans are limited in what they can do to meet their B12 requirements. Fortified products like drinks and yeast extracts contain B12, but it’s best to be safe and take a supplement.
Supplements are great because they exist in their free, crystalline form which is highly absorbable. In animal products, the B12 is bound to protein, and that can be harder to absorb for some people.
How B12 deficiencies develop
Even though B12 can be stored in the liver for five years, you can become deficient if your diet doesn’t include enough on a regular basis. As a result, mild to severe symptoms can take years to develop.
And just because you may have high levels now, it’s not unlikely that you may fall short in the future. That’s why we should all be checking our levels or taking a supplement to protect ourselves- non-vegetarians included.
The absorption of B12 is complex. Factors such as age, alcohol abuse, smoking, taking certain drugs, and various health conditions which slow the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract have all been associated with B12 deficiencies.
However, some people, regardless of their age or diet, still observe low levels, to which professionals attribute to malabsorption. If someone has a very low level of B12, they will be prescribed to take injections. Within 48 to 72 hours, their bodies will start making new red blood cells and continue to recover!
India and B12 deficiencies
The dietary source of vitamin B12 largely consists of non-vegetarian foods. While the data for B12 deficiency in India is limited, it is believed that deficiencies are widespread in the population due to such a large number of people who follow a vegetarian diet.
Treatment around the world can vary, too. In the United States, the percentage of B12 deficiency is on the lower end, with underlying causes associated with the malabsorption of oral supplementation.
In India, where deficiencies are largely due to poor dietary intake, the Indian population could benefit from oral supplementation better than other forms of treatment, such as injections.
The scale of the problem isn’t exact. It is estimated that over 70% of adults and 80% of pre-school children have some form of deficiency. As a result, many people suffer from anemia, fatigue, or even neurological illnesses. This is especially a concern for children, who need enough for the development of muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and the brain. Exclusively breast-fed infants commonly experience deficiencies due to the lack of supplementation and breast-feeding mothers who are B12 deficient.
What’s the solution?
Supplementation is important for Indians. The answer falls upon vegan companies like PRO2FIT to make high-quality, affordable vegan nutrition products to ensure people are getting enough vital nutrients throughout their lives.
PRO2FIT is looking into all kinds of ways to boost nutrition in your daily meals. You can learn more about PRO2FIT and their mission on their website.