Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Seen in All Types of Vegetarians

June 18, 2003 -- Researchers have long known that a strict vegetarian diet -- one that excludes all animal products -- can lead to vitamin B-12 deficiency, and possibly heart disease. Now, new research suggests that even those who follow a more lenient vegetarian diet are also at risk.

In the July issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, German researchers tracked 174 apparently healthy people living in Germany and the Netherlands.

They found that 92% of the vegans they studied -- those who ate the strictest vegetarian diet, which shuns all animal products, including milk and eggs -- had vitamin B12 deficiency. But two in three people who followed a vegetarian diet that included milk and eggs as their only animal foods also were deficient. Only 5% of those who consumed meats had vitamin B12 deficiency.

Take Heart

The problem: Vitamin B12 deficiency can boost blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid implicated as a strong risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Studies have suggested that high homocysteine levels can promote blockages in arteries over time, possibly leading to heart disease and stroke.

"As the number of vegetarians is increasing worldwide, we have special concerns about some health aspects of this diet," lead researcher Wolfgang Herrmann, MD, PhD, tells WebMD. "We have a particular concern over vitamin B12 status being regularly monitored in vegetarians -- most importantly, in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children of vegetarian mothers and on macrobiotic diets, elderly vegetarians, and people who already have atherosclerosis."

Unlike some other B vitamins, B12 is not found in any plant food other than fortified cereals. It is, however, abundant in many meats and fish, and in smaller amounts in milk and eggs. This makes it difficult for people following a strict vegetarian diet to get the necessary amount of vitamin B12.

Meat Eaters: This Includes You

Even young, healthy, vitamin-taking meat-eaters may not be getting enough B12, according to Tufts University nutritionist Katherine Tucker, PhD.

In a study published three years ago, also in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, she found that nearly 40% of 3,000 adults under age 50 had blood levels of vitamin B12 low enough to cause problems.

Healthy Recipe Finder

Browse our collection of healthy, delicious recipes, from WebMD and Eating Well magazine.

Top searches: Chicken, Chocolate, Salad, Desserts, Soup

Healthy Recipe Finder