Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation

Nutrients. 2016 Nov 29;8(12):767. doi: 10.3390/nu8120767.


Cobalamin is an essential molecule for humans. It acts as a cofactor in one-carbon transfers through methylation and molecular rearrangement. These functions take place in fatty acid, amino acid and nucleic acid metabolic pathways. The deficiency of vitamin B12 is clinically manifested in the blood and nervous system where the cobalamin plays a key role in cell replication and in fatty acid metabolism. Hypovitaminosis arises from inadequate absorption, from genetic defects that alter transport through the body, or from inadequate intake as a result of diet. With the growing adoption of vegetarian eating styles in Western countries, there is growing focus on whether diets that exclude animal foods are adequate. Since food availability in these countries is not a problem, and therefore plant foods are sufficiently adequate, the most delicate issue remains the contribution of cobalamin, which is poorly represented in plants. In this review, we will discuss the status of vitamin B12 among vegetarians, the diagnostic markers for the detection of cobalamin deficiency and appropriate sources for sufficient intake, through the description of the features and functions of vitamin B12 and its absorption mechanism.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; cobalamin; deficiency; diagnostic markers; food sources; neurological symptoms; supplements; vegan; vegetarian; vitamin B12.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diet, Vegetarian
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Vegetarians*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency*
  • Vitamin B 12*


  • Vitamin B 12