Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that is not made by plants; consequently, unfortified plant-based foods are not a reliable supply. Recent estimates suggest high rates of vitamin B12 deficiency among the vegetarian and vegan populations, particularly in pregnant women or women of child-bearing age who, for ethical and health reasons, are shifting towards higher consumption of plant-based foods in ever-increasing numbers. Vitamin B12 plays crucial metabolic roles across the life-course and in particular during pregnancy and in early development (first 1000 days of life). Evidence now implicates vitamin B12 deficiency with increased risk to a range of neuro, vascular, immune, and inflammatory disorders. However, the current UK recommended nutrient intake for vitamin B12 does not adequately consider the vitamin B12 deficit for those choosing a plant-based diet, including vegetarianism and in particular veganism, representing a hidden hunger. We provide a cautionary note on the importance of preventing vitamin B12 deficits for those individuals choosing a plant-based diet and the health professionals advising them.
Keywords: Dietary recommendations; Planetary health; Plant-based diets; Pregnancy; Public health; Vegetarian and vegan populations; Vitamin B12; Women of child-bearing age.
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