Many vegans would prefer not to have chemical supplements and they would like to get their B12 as a natural part of their diet. You cannot get it from plants but it has been found that certain algae are rich sources of the vitamin.
ROBIN MCKIE: Vitamins for vegans made from algae could soon prove to be the most effective solution to replacing an important nutrient missing from plant-based diets, thanks to recent research by scientists at Cambridge University.
The popularity of meat- and dairy-free foods in western diets is leaving many people potentially exposed to vitamin deficiency. In particular, they can suffer from a lack of the vitamin B12, a key nutrient involved in blood and nerve cell manufacture.
Research by Cambridge University scientists has highlighted an unusual solution to the problem. Their experiments have shown that many types of algae – largely aquatic organisms that lack roots or stems – show a remarkable ability to accumulate B12. These could soon be exploited by manufacturers to provide effective supplements of the vitamin, they say.
“Diets based purely on plant products are great on many levels but they have certain deficiencies, and one of the most important of these is their lack of the vitamin B12,” said Prof Alison Smith, head of the plant metabolism group at the university.
Supplements based on vitamin B12 are already available but some are effective and others are not, added her colleague, Dr Payam Mehrshahi. “If you are on a vegan diet, you are at risk of being vitamin B12 deficient. You can buy supplements but if you pick up the wrong tablet, the wrong supplement, then you could continue to cause yourself harm.”
In addition, there is a problem in that vegans and vegetarians – once they have been made aware of the issues involved in B12 deficiency – want to take supplements that are naturally sourced. “Many vegans would prefer not to have chemical supplements and they would like to get their B12 as a natural part of their diet,” added Smith. “You cannot get it from plants but we have found that certain algae are rich sources of the vitamin.”
Vitamin B12 is an essential micronutrient. Lack of it triggers muscle weakness, numbness, nausea, weight loss, fatigue and increased heart rate while continued deficiency will eventually leave people susceptible to ailments that include pernicious anaemia, heart disease and diabetes. SOURCE…