The Need For Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is required for cell division and blood formation in the body. Neither plants nor animals can produce vitamin B12; it is produced by bacteria. Animals get the vitamin B12 they need by consuming food which contains the vitamin B12 producing bacteria. The plants we eat do not contain vitamin B12 unless the bacteria are present or vitamin B12 is added to them. Therefore, vegetarians need to look for fortified foods or supplements to get enough vitamin B12 in their diet. Though the daily amount of vitamin B12 needed is very small, vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious problem that can lead eventually to anemia and irreversible nerve damage. Prudent vegetarians will include sources of vitamin B12 in their diet. Vitamin B12 is especially important during pregnancy and lactation, and for infants and children.
Sources of Vitamin B12 For Vegetarians
Some sources of vitamin B12 are vitamin B12 fortified soymilk, vitamin B12 fortified wheat gluten, and soybeans. These vegetarian products are often made to resemble meat, fish, or poultry. Also, there are vitamin supplements available that do not contain animal products. Vegetarians who choose to use a vitamin B12 supplement, either as a single supplement or in a multivitamin, must remember to use the supplements regularly for them to be effective. In order to meet the body’s needs, one should take a daily vitamin B12 supplement of approximately 5-10 micrograms, or a weekly vitamin B12 supplement of approximately 2000 micrograms.