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The elusive vitamin B12

13-09-2017 11:30 AM | Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream

The elusive vitamin B12 | My Indian Dream

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Vitamin B12 is essential for the body but is absent in plant based diet

Vitamin B12 is a very important vitamin that should be incorporated in our diet as it is used by the body for our DNA synthesis, our nerves and our blood cells. A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia and even difficulty in walking, memory loss and disorientation.

Vitamin B12 is generally found only in animal foods. Therefore, it becomes difficult for vegetarians and vegans to meet the adequate daily requirement of the vitamin. While vegetarians can obtain vitamin B12 from dairy foods and eggs, vegans do not consume these foods, thus it can be virtually non-existent in their diets. Hence this vitamin is probably one of the greatest nutritional concerns for vegetarians and vegans. A lack of vitamin B-12 can lead to pernicious anemia.

Certain bacteria dwelling in the bodies of animals produce vitamin B12. As it is non-existent in plants, vegetarians often lack this important vitamin. However, vegetarians have several options for sources of B-12. These include dairy products, eggs, and certain fortified foods. Vitamin B-12 can even be found in certain mushrooms and algae.

 Dairy products

Consuming dairy products is a simple way to get adequate vitamin B-12 for vegetarians. Daily have a bowl of yogurt, one cup of low-fat milk and a few slices of cheese at different times of the day for your daily dose of vitamin B-12.


Eggs are another source of B-12 for vegetarians.  One large, hard-boiled egg has .6 micrograms of vitamin B-12. You can make eggs a part of your daily B-12 intake by tossing a hard boiled egg in a salad or having scrambled eggs for breakfast.

Fortified cereals

There are some foods which are fortified with vitamin B-12 that helps to meet your daily intake requirement. One great fortified food is breakfast cereal in which vitamin B12 is added. Always read the packaging to determine the amount of  vitamin B-12 per serving.

An advantage of fortified foods is that they are easy to digest as they have high bioavailability which means that they can be easily absorbed by the body as they need not be broken down. They can be used right away and helps your body get more vitamin B-12.

The benefits of vitamin B-12 is enormous. It contributes to vital functions in your body, including forming and dividing red blood cells, protecting your nervous system, synthesizing your DNA and giving your body energy.

In India, majority of population, especially women are found to be anaemic as most of them follow a vegetarian diet. Absence of vitamin B12 hinders the absorption of iron in the body which is essential for the formation of blood.

Apart from anaemia, deficiency of B-12 causes neurological disorders, and the inability for cells to divide.

Vegetarians and vegans should always be mindful of their B-12 intake. You may discuss ways to add B-12 into your diet with your doctor and also decide on a supplement that is necessary to ensure you get enough vitamin B-12 into your system.


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