Obtaining B12 from non-animal sources

For reliable adequate intake of B12 vegans should consume either a supplement or fortified food that contains B12. Someone in social media coincidentally posted an interesting different opinion just after that. This is the follow up.


The social media post referred to this National Centre for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) article from 2014. The social media poster of the article stated the fascinating opinion that based on that NCBI article, B12 can be obtained adequately without food fortification nor supplementation from non-animal sources. This is of course a potentially very significant statement of holy grail proportions. That is since B12 is the only human required nutrient not available in plants (B12 is produced by micro-organisms).

A quick message was thus sent to The Vegan Society asking for an opinion on that article. The replied received stated:-

  • The review by Watanabe et al [in that article] is incomplete and in particular omits the human study by Yamada which failed to find a benefit of nori
  • Jack Norris has a much better review at http://veganhealth.org/b12/plant#sbga
  • The bottom line is that no randomised controlled trial has shown a convincing effect of any algae in improving B12 status.  There was one recent uncontrolled study of chlorella and an earlier study of AFA (Klamath Lake algae) that suggested some effect.  Neither give sufficient evidence to recommend these as reliable sources

6 thoughts on “Obtaining B12 from non-animal sources

  1. Hi Loz,

    I have a long history of taking a daily multi vit supplement going back to the late 80s when I was omnivorous. That was based on what someone I knew in the medical industry at the time recommended. I continued with that until I watched Forks Over Knives around 2 years ago. Forks Over Knives recommended against supplementation so after that point I gravitated to just fortified non-dairy drinks (e.g. nut milk, almond milk etc).

    In the latter part of last year though I ventured to the dizzy heights of making my own nut milk. That was a huge step for someone as blatantly untalented in the kitchen as me. However, ‘1/2 cup mixed nuts plus 4 cups water then blend’; even I could manage that. When making my own nut milk I took a multi vit once a week as an interim (and possibly not very good solution), since they are what was already in the cupboard. However the blender has recently given up the ghost and gone to the great blender showroom in the sky. Thus I am back on fortified drinks for the moment and still considering next steps.

    That though is just a personal story and not a recommendation to others. The reason I published the original article was just to put out there The Vegan Society opinion of that NCBI article. What people do re B12 is an individual choice.

    What do you do for B12 if you don’t mind me asking?


    • Hi Stevie,

      Thanks for your reply!

      No multivitamin for me, I add nutritional yeast flakes to cereals, salads, and smoothies, and buy fortified non-dairy milks (usually alpro rice/almond/hazelnut). If I haven’t had any of the above on a given day or two, I’ll have a B12 supplement.

      As you wrote in your article, my understanding is that sea greens aren’t a reliable source of B12. I’ve also seen anecdotes of people who were found to be deficient in B12 despite regularly eating nutritional yeast, which is why I hedge my bets a bit with the above combination!


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Stevie and Loz, I’ve been taking the Veg1 supplement made by the Vegan Society. I think it’s a good one because it is specifically formulated for vegans and they have thought really hard about what to include (what vegans tend to be deficient in and what can be found easily in vegan foods), and levels for each nutrient. It doesn’t include calcium or zinc for example. For more info, check out the following (FAQ responses compiled by Stephen Walsh):


    • Thanks Ashni for your comment. I’ve just had my blender repaired so will be switching back to making my own nut milk (unfortified). I’ll check out your suggestion re these veg1 supplements.

      Out of curiosity have you ever considered going for a health check up to get some hard metrics on things like blood tests, cardiogram etc. The NGOs such as http://www.ucn.org.hk do them for around 1000 – 1500 hkd depending on the health check plan you sign up for. The service isn’t only for christians as they have been happy to treat me. As well as that it’s 400 hkd for a b12 check and 750 hkd for a total vit d check. I’ve never had a b12 check so I may get one. I don’t anticipate there being any issues in the result but getting the hard metrics in the report takes out any assumption / speculation / doubt (delete as appropriate).


  3. Thanks Stevie, that’s really helpful. I will look into it. I’ve never got a check up for B12 before. I had one for Vitamin D a long time ago when I was in the UK and found I was deficient, but since then, I’ve been getting a lot of sunlight exposure, so don’t expect that to be an issue.


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