Vegans Can Now Get Vitamin B12 From a Plant

The most frequent warning that those with†a†plant-based diet†receive? No, itís not about getting enough protein — after all, thatís easy. It’s a†recommendation to supplement†vegan diets with†B12.

Without adequate B12, humans can suffer serious health consequences. But now, according to scientists from the University of Kent, it may no longer be necessary for vegans to take a B12 supplement†– because†certain plants can provide this vitamin.

What Is B12, and Why Do We Need It?

Plants donít make B12, and they donít need it to grow or thrive. Therefore, most people — the meat eaters and milk drinkers of the world — get their B12 from animal-based foods. The vitamin is bound to the protein in these foods and released during digestion.

professor and students

Professor Martin Warren and students at Sir Roger Manwood’s School in Sandwich investigate B12 uptake in common garden cress. Photo credit: University of Kent

B12 protects the nervous system. Without sufficient B12, humans eventually will suffer from:

  • Megaloblastic anemia, which affects red blood cell formation
  • Nerve damage, which can trigger other negative consequences — like fatigue, muscle weakness, blindness, deafness, mental confusion, dementia, depression, loss of balance, tingling, numbness and paralysis.

What about animals and human populations who have always been†solely herbivores? Arenít they B12 deficient as a result of that diet? No, as it turns out.

Herbivorous animals absorb their B12 from bacteria within their own digestive system. But humans cannot do the same because, for us, B12 can be absorbed only in the small intestine — and the bacteria we do carry in our gut is held in the colon, not the small intestine.

Plant-based indigenous people who donít have our obsession with cleaning and cooking manage to ingest quite enough B12 from bacteria on the surfaces of their food.

For the rest of us, experts have long recommended that vegans supplement as follows:

  • Eat three micrograms of B12 a day via fortified foods like nutritional yeast or some breakfast cereals, eaten two or three times a day
  • Take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms, or
  • Take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms.
Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Certain Plants Can Absorb B12

Stated simply, the scientists conducting this study discovered that a plant known as common garden cress can take up cobalamin — B12 — from the soil. How much†the plant absorbs depends on how much is available in the soil, but the research team confirmed finding B12 in garden cress leaves.

The University of Kent researchers†describe the significance of†their†finding†as follows:

Vitamin B12, cobalamin, is an essential dietary component that is synthesized solely by certain prokaryotes. Although some eukaryotes, including mammals, require the nutrient, kingdoms such as Plantae and Fungi have evolved to live in a B12-less environment, which has implications for people on a vegan diet.


[Ve]ry surprisingly, certain plants were observed to be able to absorb B12 from their growth medium, accumulating the molecule in the leaf vacuole. This latter finding may be important as a way to address the global challenge of providing a nutrient-complete vegetarian diet, a valuable development as the world becomes increasingly meat-free due to population expansion.

Saying it “may be important” is an understatement. As more of us switch to eating plants instead of animals, finding ways to ensure B12 availability is key. Places like India, where plant-based eating is a way of life for most of the population, will particularly benefit from the growth of B12-enriched plants.

A plant-based diet is an†optimal diet. And now the final domino has fallen:†Even the B12 argument doesnít hold water, vegan naysayers.

Photo Credit: Pixabay


hELEN hEARFIELD5 days ago


Caitlin L
Caitlin L8 days ago

Good to know

Renata B
Renata B8 days ago

With out over-clean lifestyle, we all need some extra B12, also people who eat animals, and especially when getting old. We are all in the same boat!

heather g
heather g8 days ago

As a vegan or vegetarian, B12 is the only essential supplement one needs to take.

michela c
michela c8 days ago

Great news, thank you

Paulo R
Paulo Reeson1 months ago

great, ty

Amanda McConnell
Amanda M2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Amanda McConnell
Amanda M2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill2 months ago


Dave fleming
Dave fleming2 months ago