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The importance of vitamin B12 for individuals choosing plant-based diets

Niklewicz A, Smith A, Smith A, Holzer A, Klein A, McCaddon A, Molloy A, Wolffenbuttel B, Nexo E, McNulty H, Refsum H, Gueant J, Dib M, Ward M, Murphy M, Green R, Ahmadi K, Hannibal L, Warren M, Owen J (2023) European Journal of Nutrition  Apr;62(3):1551-1559 doi: 10.1007/s00394-022-03025-4 

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Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that is not made by plants; consequently, unfortified plant-based foods are not a reliable supply. Recent estimates suggest high rates of vitamin B12 deficiency among the vegetarian and vegan populations, particularly in pregnant women or women of child-bearing age who, for ethical and health reasons, are shifting towards higher consumption of plant-based foods in ever-increasing numbers. Vitamin B12 plays crucial metabolic roles across the life-course and in particular during pregnancy and in early development (first 1000 days of life). Evidence now implicates vitamin B12 deficiency with increased risk to a range of neuro, vascular, immune, and inflammatory disorders. However, the current UK recommended nutrient intake for vitamin B12 does not adequately consider the vitamin B12 deficit for those choosing a plant-based diet, including vegetarianism and in particular veganism, representing a hidden hunger. We provide a cautionary note on the importance of preventing vitamin B12 deficits for those individuals choosing a plant-based diet and the health professionals advising them.


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