Since vitamin B12 occurs in substantial amounts only in foods derived from animals, vegetarians and particularly vegans are at risk of developing deficiencies of this essential vitamin. The chlorella used for this study is a commercially available whole-food supplement, which is believed to contain the physiologically active form of the vitamin. This exploratory open-label study was performed to determine if adding 9 g of Chlorella pyrenoidosa daily could help mitigate a vitamin B12 deficiency in vegetarians and vegans. Seventeen vegan or vegetarian adults (26-57 years of age) with a known vitamin B12 deficiency, as evidenced by a baseline serum methylmalonic acid (MMA) level above 270 nmol/L at screening, but who otherwise appeared healthy were enrolled in the study. Each participant added 9 g of C. pyrenoidosa to their daily diet for 60 ± 5 days and their serum MMA, vitamin B12, homocysteine (Hcy) levels as well as mean corpuscular volume (MCV), hemoglobin (Hgb), and hematocrit (Hct) were measured at 30 and 60 days from baseline. After 30 and 60 days, the serum MMA level fell significantly (P < .05) by an average ∼34%. Fifteen of the 17 (88%) subjects showed at least a 10% drop in MMA. At the same time, Hcy trended downward and serum vitamin B12 trended upward, while MCV, Hgb, and Hct appeared unchanged. The results of this work suggest that the vitamin B12 in chlorella is bioavailable and such dietary supplementation is a natural way for vegetarians and vegans to get the vitamin B12 they need.
Keywords: chlorella; methylmalonic acid; veganism; vegetarian diet; vitamin B12 deficiency.