We have talked about the vegetarian diet and the vegan diet and we have seen how in both cases it is necessary to combine this type of diet with the integration of some vitamins such as vitamin D and vitamin B12, which are difficult to take for those who choose not to consume foods of animal origin. Let's see together why!
Vitamin B12 was isolated and crystallized in 1948, although to date there are still numerous studies aimed at discovering in detail its chemical properties and above all its effects on our body. Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, falls into the category of water-soluble vitamins and unlike most other vitamins of this type, it is stored primarily in the liver until required by the body.
This vitamin is very important for our body because it is involved in fundamental processes for our survival, for example:
- It is an essential cofactor for the functioning of enzymes involved in the metabolism of amino acids, nucleic acids and fatty acids;
- plays a key role in the formation of red blood cells in the bone marrow through the regulation of hemoglobin synthesis.
- It is necessary for the central nervous system as it is involved in the construction of the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerves.
Where can we find it?
Vitamin B12 in active form, and therefore absorbable by man, is found only in foods of animal origin such as meat and its derivatives, fish and crustaceans, eggs and milk and derivatives. From these foods the amount of vitamin absorbed by our body can vary from 30% to 80% of the total content and it must also be considered that about 30% is lost with cooking.
A very common myth is that vitamin B12 can be obtained from plant sources such as some algae and yeast but also some foods of oriental origin such as tempeh (derived from soybeans) and Kombucha (Chinese tea). Actually these foods contain B12-like compounds but in form inactive e which therefore are not assimilable by our body.
What is your daily requirement?
The daily requirement of B12 for the adult population is 2.4µg / day, a quantity generally satisfied by a normal omnivorous diet. Obviously found only in foods of animal origin, B12 cannot be taken by those people who for various reasons do not consume these foods, thus making it necessary to supplement.
Furthermore, in pregnant women the requirement increases to 2.6 µg / day so as to guarantee the fetus an adequate quantity. During pregnancy it is essential to avoid a lack of vitamin B12 as this affects the fetus, in many cases causing the birth of underweight children with a delay in growth and for this reason very often vitamin supplementation is recommended in the pre- childbirth. Even in the first years of children's life it is essential that B12 is taken in adequate quantities as the available studies clearly demonstrate how a deficiency causes damage to the brain, with possible cognitive deficits and motor dysfunction.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
There are essentially two situations that can determine a B12 deficiency: The reduced dietary availability which therefore limits its intake in those who do not consume food of animal origin and the inability of our body to assimilate it due to a dysfunction of the absorption processes .
Therefore, with the exception of cases of inability to absorb, to avoid hypovitaminosis it is advisable for people who follow diets that provide for the complete abolition of meat, fish, eggs and milk to take supplements or foods added with vitamin B12.
In the most severe form, B12 deficiency can lead to the onset of megaloblastic anemia, a very severe form of slowly evolving anemia. For this reason it is essential to avoid running into a deficiency of this vitamin by guaranteeing its food intake or evaluating its integration!
- Vitamin B12 deficiency. MSD manual version for professionals. Available at: https://www.msdmanuals.com/it/professionale/disturbi-nutrizionali/carenza-dipendenza-e-tossicit%C3%A0-vitaminica/carenza-di-vitamina-b12#v44325138_it
- Veronesi magazine Foundation. Vitamin B12: Facts and Unresolved Issues. Available at https://www.fondazioneveronesi.it/magazine/i-blog-della-fondazione/il-blog-di-airicerca/la-vitamina-b12-fatti-e-questioni-irrisolte