Are vegetarians and vegans at risk of having a vitamin B deficiency?
Everyone wants to be healthier, right? If wanting to look and feel our best were the only requirement, then the massive industry devoted to health, fitness and diet would quickly fade away. Unfortunately, it takes quite a bit more than desire. Having the willpower to stick to a diet or exercise program has, no doubt, sprung to mind, but that is not what this is about. The fallacy of the “all it takes is willpower” advocacy has been argued quite successfully elsewhere. It takes more than desire and it certainly takes more than willpower: it takes knowledge.
Despite what you may read in the headlines staring you in the face while waiting to checkout at the grocery store or see on TV or in a pop-up ad online, there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all program for optimum health. We are all unique. Nutritional requirements can vary greatly from one individual to another and that does not even begin to take into account likes and dislikes. Whatever your path, vegetarian, vegan, paleo or somewhere in between, there are some basics that apply to everyone, and that may well be the place to start when making the commitment for good health. And, when it comes to those basics, a natural place to start would be with one of the most essential vitamins; vitamin B.
What Are B Vitamins?
Vitamins are organic compounds that are required for normal growth and function. Most are not produced in the body and must come from our diet or through supplementation. Vitamin B is actually a family or group of vitamins. While the B vitamins often function together, each is unique and a deficiency in one cannot be compensated with another. Some members of the vitamin B family are better recognized by name than by their assigned number. Niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), biotin (B7) and folate (B9) are good examples.
What differentiate each group of B Vitamins?
Each of the B group of vitamins has an important function in maintaining good health. Vitamin B12 is one that is currently receiving a lot of attention. Most people know that a lack of sufficient B12 can be responsible for low energy, which is why we see all sorts of energy drinks and supplement concoctions popping up wherever we look. While care should be taken with fad products that may have more of a budget devoted to aggressive marketing than quality control, B12 is important for energy. It plays a significant role in red blood cell formation and function, is vital to the protection of the nervous system and in the synthesis of DNA.
Because vitamin B12 is found almost entirely in foods that come from animals, like beef, chicken, fish, eggs and milk, it can be problematic for vegetarians and vegans to consume adequate amounts of this important nutrient. Vegetarian diets have a wide range and can usually be structured with enough dairy, eggs and fish to meet B12 requirements, but it is much more difficult for vegans. Plants do not contain B12 so it will be necessary to find alternate sources, typically in fortified grain products or through consistent supplementation.
This brings us back to our original premise: the key to attaining and maintaining good health lies in knowledge. This is not always easy to do on our own when there is so much conflicting information to wade through. Partnering with a trusted coach can be the missing step that finally gets you on the road to looking and feeling your very best.
At the Southern California Center for Anti-Aging, we believe vitamins are a crucial factor to feeling energetic, maintaining a strong immune system and decreasing risk factors for many diseases, while also helping to create the foundation for a healthier and happier life.