B12–the vitamin you need to thrive on a plant-based diet

B12 vitaminVitamin B12 is mainly found only in animal foods so for plant-based eaters, you need to take a high quality supplement regularly. Why?

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin needed for DNA synthesis. It’s critical in red blood cell formation in your bone marrow. And it helps nerve fibers perform in your brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous system.

With a deficiency of B-12, cells will not develop properly. You can become anemic and suffer from spinal cord and nerve damage.

B-12 is also required to convert the amino acid homocysteine into methionine. Homocysteine is a byproduct of your digestive system. If you have a B-12 deficiency, homocysteine can build up to toxic levels in your bloodstream, damaging your arteries and leading to atherosclerosis.

Not to be Debbie Downer, but advanced B-12 deficiency can be serious and in the most severe cases may lead to paralysis, dementia and even death.

You may be asking yourself: if a plant-based diet are the way to go, why would it  be deficient in any nutrients? Good question. The answer: Vitamin B-12 comes from microorganisms… mostly bacteria that live in soil, water, and the digestive tracts of animals.

Hundreds of years ago, people could get B-12 by drinking from mountain runoff or streams. Or by working in gardens and then eating without washing their hands thoroughly. Since we no longer do these things, plant-based sources of Vitamin B-12 have been eliminated from modern life.

It’s true that there are bacteria in the human gut that synthesize B-12 but they don’t live in the part of the intestine where B-12 is absorbed. So your best bet is taking a regular supplement.

How much do we need?

According to Dr. Michael Klaper,

Only a small amount of the B-12 you swallow is actually absorbed. So he recommends a daily intake of…

    1. 5 mcg daily from fortified food like cereal, rice milk, and soy milk AND
    2. 100 mcg from a daily supplement, preferably chewed to increase absorption OR
    3. 2000 mcg from a weekly supplement to keep your B-12 level in the safe range.