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Vegetarian Diet and B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Seen in All Types of Vegetarians
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Meat Eaters: This Includes You continued...

"There were very few vegetarians in our study, and a lot were taking vitamin supplements," she tells WebMD. "There really seem to be a lot of absorption problems, even in younger people. One theory is the increased use of antacids may be blocking the absorption of B12."

The good news: It is virtually impossible to consume too much B12, since it has a very low potential for toxicity. According to the Institute of Medicine, "No adverse effects have been associated with excess vitamin B12 intake from food and supplements in healthy individuals."

Tucker's advice: "If you are a vegetarian and have been for a long time, if you are taking antacids, or are getting older and may be having some problems, or are just concerned, you can safely take vitamin supplements at levels of 500 to 1,000 micrograms (1 milligram). Fortified cereals may not be enough."

Your Body and Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy nerve and red blood cells and is also needed to make DNA, which is why it's especially important that pregnant and nursing women consume enough.

Vitamin B12 deficiency leads to anemia. Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, which usually come on gradually, include fatigue, weakness, nausea, and constipation. Long-term and severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to nerve changes such as numbness, tingling in the hands and feet, balance and memory problems, and depression.

A blood test is the best way to test for vitamin B12 deficiency, and Herrmann recommends that all vegetarians get tested every year.

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