Since we’re a vegan cafe and we promote a plant based diet for optimum health, we thought it important to share the facts about B12 and the dangers of the lack of it in our diets.
Vitamin B12 is essential in the human diet and the lack of it can have serious consequences.
Not consuming the adequate amount of B12 can cause anaemia and even damage to the nervous system.. Since B12 is more difficult to obtain via plant based foods than it is meat, this naturally causes concern to those who are considering a vegetarian or vegan diet. However, it’s important to state that not every vegetarian or vegan is scarily unwell nor necessarily B12 deficient. As we shared last week, many on a vegan diet live much longer than those on alternative diets. A great example of this is Dr. Ellsworth Wareham, who, at 101 years old and as a retired heart surgeon, recommends a plant based diet.
So how can we maintain a plant based diet and get all of the essential nutrients that we need, including the elusive B12?
Vitamin B12 can be found in many plant based products, or in the form of a B12 supplement. The adequate amount recommended for an adult is 2.4 micrograms per day rising to 2.8 micrograms for nursing mothers.
According to the Vegan Society, to gain the full benefit of a vegan diet, vegans should do one of the following:
- Eat fortified foods two to three times a day to get at least three micrograms (mcg or µg) of B12.
- Or: take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms.
- Or: take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms.
“The longer the deficiency persists, the higher the likelihood that irreversible and permanent damage will occur,” says Brian Dixon, PhD, director of product innovation at USANA Health Sciences.
In addition to anaemia, the lack of B12 has also been linked to cognitive impairment and dementia, “A study of over 100 senior volunteers showed older individuals with low levels of vitamin B12 are more apt to suffer from brain atrophy or shrinkage. Brain atrophy is a well-established characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.” It can also lead to melancholic depression, stoke in elderly age, increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
The reason our body needs vitamin B12:
- Proper digestion, food absorption, iron use, carbohydrate and fat metabolism
- Healthy nervous system function
- Promotion of normal nerve growth and development
- Help with regulation of the formation of red blood cells
- Cell formation and longevity
- Proper circulation
- Adrenal hormone production
- Healthy immune system function
- Support of female reproductive health and pregnancy
- Feelings of well-being and mood regulation
- Mental clarity, concentration, memory function
- Physical, emotional and mental energy
If you are having any of the following symptoms you may need a blood test to check if you have enough B12:
Mental fogginess, problems with your memory, mood swings, lack of motivation, feelings of apathy, fatigue and a lack energy, muscle weakness, tingling in your extremities.
At the Dementia Café HQ, we drink a lot of tea, which we have with Soya milk and by a stroke of luck, Soya is rich in Vitamin B12 and 100% plant based.
For any other dietary queries regarding a plant based diet, please refer to the approved Vegan Society’s website: