Vitamin B12 is essential for cell division, the synthesis of red blood cells, maintenance of the nervous system and also in the growth and development of children.
B12 deficiency can cause anaemia or vitamin B12 neuropathy where nerve fibres degenerate causing irreversible neurological damage.
Whereas vegetarians or who consume eggs and diary products
can derive this vitamin from those sources, none of the food that constitute the vegan diet can provide for its daily requirement. Because of this, the greatest health risk that vegans face is vitamin B12 deficiency.
It is been claimed that fermented soya products, seaweeds and algae such as spiriluna are effective source of B12 for vegans.
However, studies to date have failed to confirm that the form of B12 in any plant foods can be utilised by the human body. It would not be wise, therefore, to rely on these sources. Rather, it is crucial that vegans take one of the many vitamin B12 supplements that are readily available on the market.
A daily vitamin B12 supplement of 5-10 micrograms or a weekly vitamin B12 supplement of 2000 micrograms is recommended.
Additionally, many vegan foods are supplemented with B12. These include:
· Enriched cereals
· Soya milks
· Vegetable stocks
· Herbal soft drinks
· Vegetable burger mixes
· Fortified food