THE STAR/DPA – Those of us on a vegan diet are advised to take vitamin B12 supplements to replace what is found almost exclusively in animal products and manufacturers appear to be taking advantage of this need with misleading packaging.
Vitamin B12 supplements are being sold in “extra strength” on websites like Amazon, as well as in many shops in parts of the world where veganism is popular.
However, health experts say the vitamin amounts being offered in these effervescent tablets, capsules, lozenges and powders are an unhelpful excess that merely allows companies to increase their chances of selling the product.
Adolescents and adults have an estimated daily requirement of between 1.5 and four microgrammes (mcg) of vitamin B12.
Meanwhile, many “extra strength” B12 supplements available online offer as much as 5,000mcg, with labels boasting more than 200,000 per cent of the daily requirement.
Vitamin B12 is not believed to be toxic in high amounts, and yet, there is no known benefit to exceeding recommended daily allowances of up to 25mcg.
According to researchers for Germany’s consumer protection magazine Öko-Test, most of the 29 supplements they recently examined available on Europe’s market exceed recommended values by far, some even being an “extreme” overdose.
With such supplements, you are paying for nothing more than “expensive urine”, the magazine’s testers write.
Nevertheless, many manufacturers use “extra strength” labelling to market their products, alongside claims like “supports brain cell function” and “helps reduce fatigue”.
According to Öko-Test, some products contain the animal ingredients lactose and gelatine.
If you want to avoid them, check whether the supplement is labelled as vegan.
Before self-diagnosing a vitamin B12 deficiency, you should get a doctor’s advice.
If you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is best to have your B12 levels checked once a year.
You are likely to need a vitamin B12 supplement if you have a vegan diet, as it is difficult to cover your needs with an entirely or predominantly plant-based diet.
Our body needs this nutrient for cell division and nervous system function. A deficiency can lead to anaemia and nerve damage.
Sauerkraut and fermented soy contain small amounts of B12.But the really rich sources come from animals.