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Vitamin B12 supplements online stores
Online vitamin stores where you can buy vitamin B12 supplements and B12 fortified foods online:
All of these online vitamin stores have many totally cruelty-free brands, among which Solgar, Nature's Best, Nature's Gate, Kiss My Face, Reviva, MillCreek, Aroma Vera, Nutribiotic, Nature's Plus, and others.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): benefits, deficiency, sources
Who are the groups most at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, and most likely to require supplementation?
- Lactating women
- Babies of vegan mothers
- People aged 65 and over
Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is a bit special, in that it is perhaps the only nutrient which cannot be found in foods of vegetable origin in a digestible and assimilable form for the human body. Vitamin B12 is also what is called an "essential" nutrient, meaning that it cannot be produced by the body itself but has to be found in the foods or supplements we take.
It is a precious, necessary substance. Vitamin B12 is necessary for the synthesis of red blood cells, the maintenance of the nervous system, and growth and development in children. B12 has also a role in the synthesis of DNA, our genetic material. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anaemia. Vitamin B12 neuropathy, involving the degeneration of nerve fibres and irreversible neurological damage to the nervous system, can also happen.
Vitamin b12 deficiency symptoms can be subtle and go unnoticed, so the deficiency escapes diagnosis. Among anaemia symptoms are shortness of breath, tiredness, palpitations.
In addition, a benefit of B12 is its role in the conversion of the amino acid homocysteine into another amino acid, methionine. Lack of vitamin B12 to convert it causes the build up of the harmful homocysteine in the blood, leading to increased risk of stroke and heart disease. Some studies indicate that homocysteine can be potentially more damaging than cholesterol.
Despite much research, no reliable plant sources of vitamin B12 have been found. Soya products, algae and seaweeds have all been reported to contain significant B12. This could be the result of bacterial contamination, or it could be an "analogue" of B12 which is not biologically active.
However, whatever the reason, the current nutritional consensus is that any B12 present in plant foods is likely to be unavailable to humans, and so vegetable foods should not be relied on as safe sources of vitamin B12.
Nutrition scientists recommend that vegans, ie the strict vegetarians who only consume foods of vegetable origin, take commercially available vitamin B12 supplements, or include in their diet foods fortified with vitamin B12.
Many vegan foods are indeed supplemented with B12, so a range of B12 fortified foods are available to vegans. These include yeast extracts, vegetable stock, veggieburger and veggiesausage mixes, textured vegetable protein, soya (or soy) milks, other soy products, some plant milks, vegetable and sunflower margarines, fortified orange juice, nutritional yeast, and many breakfast and other cereals.
In the UK, you can buy many of these foods directly via the internet from Tesco online. You can find them quickly by typing their name in its search box. You have to register first, but it's free and it'll take only a few seconds:
In the USA, America's largest online grocery shopping and delivery site is Peapod, serving Chicagoland, New York, New Jersey, Washington, DC, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia:
Medical authorities also recommend vitamin B12 supplements for the elderly. Older people of 65 and over are more likely to have vitamin B12 deficiency, even in developed countries, due to their reduced capability to absorb it.
This shows that there are two elements in preventing vitamin B12 deficiency: one is ensuring that B12 is present in the diet in adequate amounts, the other is the bioavailability, i.e. the ability to absorb it. Not only people of different ages and health conditions vary in this capability, but also different foods and sources of the vitamin have varied bioavailability of it. An important study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed vit B12 in supplements and fortified foods, in this case breakfast cereals, to be more easily absorbed than the B12 in poultry, meat and fish.
The US Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences recommends that people over 50 years get vitamin B12 from supplements or fortified foods because in this age group this vitamin is frequently not adequately absorbed from foods of animal origin like meat.
Current consensus is that pregnant women do not need special attention in regard to vit B12.
Lactating women require more B12 to guarantee sufficient concentration in their breast milk.
And babies of vegan mothers should be supplemented with vitamin B12 from birth, since their level at birth and the concentration in their mother's milk could be inadequate.
Vitamin B12 has a very low degree of toxicity; it is believed that high consumption is not dangerous.
B12, as all vitamins of the group B, is a water-soluble vitamin. That means 2 things:
- it cannot be easily stored in the body, and therefore it requires small intakes frequently; its stability in foods is also variable, and it may be destroyed by cooking, light and heat
- its risk of toxicity is low, because high intakes are usually excreted in urine.
- 1.5 µg (micrograms) for adults generally
- 2 µg for lactating women.
- 2.4 µg for adults generally
- 2.6 µg for pregnant women
- 2.8 µg for lactating women.
A major study following vegans from the moment of conception to the age of 26, entitled "The nutritional adequacy of plant-based diets"
and published in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, was conducted by the research director of nutrition and dietetics at King's College in London, Professor Tom Sanders. The study concluded:
Well-balanced vegetarian diets are able to support normal growth and development. It is concluded that meat is an optional rather than an essential constituent of human diets.
In reference to vegans, Professor Sanders said:
"Their diet in developed countries contains plenty of wheat, soy, pulse and salads, and provided they avoid Vitamin B12 deficiency by eating fortified foods or supplements, they are not at any disadvantage."
When this study was published, the ex-Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, who has been a strict vegetarian for decades, was asked his opinion by the media and said he had brought up his children as vegetarians with no negative consequences.
It has been a good thing for me and my children, who are no shorter than other children, he said.
Sir Paul also added that the UK's half a million vegans and vegetarians had only half the death rate of the general population.
All vitamin B12, found in animal products, fortified foods and supplements, is produced by microorganisms, and in particular by bacteria present in water and soil. Animals other than humans get B12 from water and food containing these microorganisms. Plants do not need B12, which is why food of vegetable origin do not contain it. Although plants do not contain B12, they may have acquired some through microbial contamination. Herbivore primates, our human ancestors and many in Third World countries get enough vit B12 from eating plants because of insects and bacteria presence in them and in the water they drink. Some non-human primates eat faeces, dirt and soil, which may also be a source of vitamin B12. When given perfectly clean food and water, for instance in a zoo, primates often develop vitamin B12 deficiency: which confirms the theory of the bacterial origin of the vitamin.
The fruit and vegetables that we eat are washed in chlorine, which removes the bacteria producing vitamin B12. The industrial, large-scale production of cobalamin for fortified foods involves fermentation with bacteria, during which bacterial cultures are grown in enormous vats for the extraction of vitamin B12.
Some people believe that cobalamin was once naturally found on the surfaces of root vegetables like beetroots and potatoes, and the end of natural fertilizers' use has made it disappear from the soil.
Most vegans obtain enough vit B12 to prevent damage to the nervous system and anaemia, but not many vegans consume enough of it to minimise potential risk of pregnancy complications or heart disease.
If your source of B12 are fortified foods, you should check the labels to ensure that you get enough of it. Using vitamin B12 supplements can be for some vegans cheaper and more convenient. This essential vitamin is best absorbed in small quantities; however, the less often you take it the more of it you need to obtain each time.