In recent reading about various vitamins, I became aware of some confusion about the source of Vitamin B12. Some web sites claim that plants are a good source of B12. Other sites say that B12 comes from animals. Yet other sites say that it comes from the soil. With all that going on, it’s little wonder that people are confused.
So, Where Does Vitamin B12 Come From Anyway?
I’m glad you asked.
Vitamin B12 is produced by simple organisms, such as bacteria and algae. The vitamin finds its way into the food chain by animals eating foods covered in or containing these bacteria and other B12-producing organisms. From there, microbial synthesis takes place in the animal’s digestive tract. The B12 is passed on through the intestinal lining and into the meat and organs of the animal.
Unfortunately for vegans, there are no plant-based sources of this crucial vitamin. There are plant-based Vitamin B12 analogues, but these analogues are not in a form that is usable by the human body. This is why it is absolutely essential that strict vegetarians and vegans take a B12 supplement. Without taking in animal protein in their diet, there really isn’t any other way of getting it than supplements.
Nutritional yeast is, by all means, a great source of B-complex vitamins, but B12 is not one of them. In the preparation of nutritional yeast that offers Vitamin B12, the vitamin is cultured independently and then added to the yeast for packaging.
Vitamin B12 plays a role in the metabolism of all cells in the body. especially with regard to DNA synthesis and regulation. It is crucial to healthy cell function and deficiency is a serious concern. Vegans who do not take B12 supplements may actually test as having normal levels in cases where they eat spirulina or certain algae. These organisms contain so-called pseudo-B12, which are active in tests for B12, but have no associated Vitamin B12 biological activity in the human body. Without supplementation or ingesting B12-producing bacteria, vegetarians and vegans are at serious risk.
Vitamin B12 provides such primary functions as essential growth factor; formation of blood cells and nerve sheaths; regeneration of folic acid; intermediary-metabolism co-enzyme function, especially in the cells of nervous tissue. Our modern-day lifestyle can get in the way of us being able to absorb and retain this vitamin. Alcohol is a serious problem in this regard, as are various other drugs, including oral contraceptives. Of note, pregnant women may test normally for B12 in tissue samples, yet their blood-serum level may be inadequate.
Deficiency leads to defective DNA synthesis, with is responsible for the growth and repair of our cells. Of significant concern is that chronic B12 deficiency leads to spinal chord degeneration. As well, DNA damage is an obvious risk factor for cancer.
Please ensure you get an adequate intake of animal protein in your diet. If you’re a vegetarian, taking a supplement is vital to your health and well-being.