Vitamin B12 deficiency in Vegetarians

Image of dairy products preventing Vitamin B12 deficiency in vegeterians

                  BY DR. KHOOBSURAT NAJMA

What is vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is vital for the formation of red blood cells, as well as for the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Why are Vegetarians at risk?

Vitamin B12 is available only in animal foods (meat and dairy products) .Milk and eggs contain vitamin B12 but no plant food naturally contains the vitamin. Strict vegetarians who do not eat any meat, fish, egg or dairy products can develop vitamin B12 deficiency.

Why should it be treated?

If left untreated Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia and nerve and brain damage, which may even become irreversible. Vitamin B12 deficiency during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects and birth related complications. It can also increase the risk of heart diseases and certain cancers such as colon cancer.


Symptoms tend to develop slowly and include:

  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Easy bruising including bleeding gums
  • Pale skin
  • Sore tongue
  • Poor appetite
  • weight loss
  • tingling sensation in toes and fingers
  • Memory problems


  • Diagnosis is done by CBC(Complete Blood Counts) and Serum B12 levels.
  • Advanced blood tests include Serum Homocysteine and Methylmalonic acid level (MMA).

Prevention and Treatment:

  • If you are a vegetarian who can take milk and dairy products, include them in your daily diet plan.
  • If you are a strict vegetarian, then it is important to eat breads, cereals, or other grains that have been fortified with vitamin B12.
  • Vegetarians can also take daily supplements of vitamin B12 tablets as per doctor’s advice.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency can be easily treated with daily Vitamin B12 pills or weekly injections.

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146 thoughts on “Vitamin B12 deficiency in Vegetarians

  1. Sheetal

    Very very helpful.
    Like to share is that 3 months back I came to know about this deficiency in me.
    I m taking medicines & seen difference in B12 in me.
    This is very useful information for all.

  2. nikhil agrawall

    no doctor has ever recommend me b12 though I’m a 100% vegi.
    how u can say this as since ancient years all vegetarian are more active then those bull shut nonveg eater

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr Nikhil, scientific research shows that vegetarians are at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. the best way to avoid this is to take vitamin B12 supplements and fortified vegetarian foods.

  3. Tarun pandoh

    Very useful information… im very happy by downloading ur app.. its amazing… But I want to know about gout… plz suggest me how to control uric acid and gout

  4. himanshu

    Right now Vit. B12 oral spray is available in market in name of B12 spash (producr of zota healthcare ltd, surat) which is very usefull for b12 deficiency.

  5. praveen adani

    No, it’s absolutely not true. Most Non- vegetarian are also suffering from such deficiencies. There are many pure veg. Eatabls which contains B12 vitamin.
    Don’t change your habits to eat only vegetarian food because there are many more benefits in a pure vegetarian than a non-vegetarian.

    1. 1mg

      Hi Praveen,

      Non-vegetarians too can suffer from Vitamin B12 deficiency. However, it is a scientific fact that vegetarians are at higher risk of suffering from Vitamin B12 deficiency. Hope this was helpful.

      1mg team

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr Rahul, as we grow up, our body’s ability to absorb milk decreases. so, the vitamin B12 absorption is also decreased.

  6. Ravindra

    Indians are basically vegetarian for ages, but complications due B12 deficiency are quite rare. Then why now?

  7. vineesh Joseph

    I have been diagnosed with viral Hepatitis on 17th June 2015… Bilirubin Total is 3.5… Taking Liv.52, Pantop, Rehaptin.. And complete rest…. Light food…fruits..
    I am getting fever and headache frequently. Is there any possibility of any other illnesses?

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr Vineesh, Viral hepatitis take a few weeks to resolve. keep yourself well hydrated, take your antiviral medication and rest. If you get high grade fever repeatedly, please consult a doctor

  8. sanjay bhanderi

    Very useful information, however I want to know that if we can take milk regularly that shall we get vitaminB12.

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr Sanjay, with age our body’s ability to absorb milk and its nutrients also decreases. So, along with milk you can take cheese, yoghurt, curd as they are better absorbed.

  9. j. alexander

    How can we retrieve your earlier news letters, like for example I want to read the news letter you sent two days back on Thyroid.

  10. Chandrashekhar M.Kangutkar

    Good & Very Useful.
    It will be appreciated if you suggest useful medicine as remedy.

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr yashwant, this is an aricle on Vitamin B12 deficiency which is relatively higher in the vegetarian population as reported throughtout the world. The best way to avoid this deficiency is by taking milk products like cheese, curd, and vitamin B12 tablets after consulting the doctor

  11. prashant malpani

    Your these informative articals are very much appriciated , thank for providing useful information

  12. Dharmendra Chhatar

    Very useful information. Kindly let me know other information related to bone disease and precautions. Thanks

  13. Faiyaz Khan

    Extremely useful for all vegies and non-veggies as well….

    Is methylcobalamin supplement useful for low red blood count ?

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr Faiyaz, if your low red blood count has been diagnosed due to methylcobalamin deficiency, then it will get treated by taking methylcobalamin


    I m hypothyroid n over weight. Any relevant info which will help me loose weight n also help thyroid problems.

  15. narendra dave

    Not true i heard from usa and uk they take non veg but also they have b12 deficency 4 out of 10 person also got information from net

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr Narendra, studies have proven that vegetarians are at risk. since prevention is better than cure, vegetarians should eat dairy products and cereals and breads fortified with vitamin B12 to prevent deficiency.

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr Prasad, all vegetarians do not need to take medicines. the best thing to do is to take foods fortified with vitamin B12. if you take milk products like cheese, curd on a regular basis that can also maintain B12 levels. if you are above 50 and have signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, you can take methylcobalamin tablets after consulting a doctor

  16. Khanwalkar

    If this message is correct, how is it possible that Indian Brahmins, banias, Jains who are not talking animal products for last 3000 years didn’t need it? These communities have been generally doing brain works. Is there any explanatio

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr Khanwalkar, scientific research across the globe has proven this. It is not that all vegetarians will have B12 deficiency. all that we are saying is that vegetarians are at higher risk. so to prevent a chance of deficiency it is advisable to take vegetarian foods fortified with B12.

  17. sanjay Khurana

    Nice information. Please suggest me about uric acid levels as I am having it 7.5 around the last year continuesly. How can I control it. Please help me.

  18. Akku

    महत्वपूर्ण जानकारी देने के लिए धन्यवाद ।

  19. Swaroop

    Sir, good for giving info. One thing to know is how brahmin who are strictly vegetarian are supplemented. I feel more research has to be done.

  20. Dr Irfan Momin

    Its a scientific fact that we get vit 12 mainly from animal sources thats why vegies are at risk.
    Second thing previously there was less knowledge and facilities for testing but defeciency was there.

  21. vinod

    Sir, my age is 33. I am suffering from asthma, disc degeneration, fatty liver, piles, ulcer, obesity etc. I am being following vegetarian from 6 months. My sugar and cholesterol levels are normal. I am taking ayurveda medicines for my disease. The doctor has strictly told not to eat egg, milk and meat.can i eat nonvegeterian.
    Please reply.

    1. Dr Khoobsurat Najma

      Mr vinod, if your doctor has suggested you to stop taking nonveg, you should follow his advice. You can take B12 tablets after consulting your doctor.

  22. Abdul razak

    All ways helpful such informations especially for medical and pharmaceutical professionals.expecting more allways

  23. ritu jain

    It’s true… we are jains …we have been vegetarians fr ages… n yes we are at a higher risk… even if we dont go for a test…the deficiency is always there…
    I am saying this as per my personal experience…
    Its a serious issue… n smhow I hv seen many ppl suffering frm this deficiency are prone to hving thyroid… i am nt sure of it though…

    I dunno hw but deficiency of vitaminD3 & B 12 may lead to thyroid

  24. ashoktosh

    I am a vegetarian & regularly take Spirulina in powder form. This Has helped me in my daily life, I feel less stressful, walk briskly for more than 5 km without getting tired & I am 52. This is considered as a superfood.


    Why 99% of vitamin B-12 supplements are wasted?
    Taking vitamin B-12 as an oral dose is largely a waste of money. As much as 99% of what you swallow is not even absorbed… it’s just passed through your body.
    There are really only 2 methods (available in India) for absorbing vitamin B-12 that reliably work:
    #1) B-12 injections.
    #2) Sub-Lingual absorption (under the tongue).

    Vitamin B-12 can only be absorbed in the Small Intestine, and due to common intestinal ailments, even many meat eaters who consume high levels of B-12 are unable to absorb it in their gut.
    Vitamin B-12 warning:
    Avoid Cyanocobalamin (Synthetic B-12), take only Methylcobalamin (Natural B-12).
    Solutions for vitamin B-12
    Traditionally, people who are deficient in vitamin B-12 have received injections of B-12. This is extremely effective because it bypasses the digestive tract and goes right into the bloodstream. But it has one obvious downside: It requires being injected! So most people aren’t interested in this method.

    Instead, most people supplement their vitamin B-12 using nutritional supplements. But here’s where this can go wrong: The most commonly available form of vitamin B-12 on the market is the cheap synthetic form that’s actually bound to a cyanide molecule (yes, cyanide, the poison). It’s called cyanocobalamin, and you’ll find it in all the cheap vitamins made by pharmaceutical companies and sold at grocery stores and big box stores.

    Action item: If you have any vitamin B-12 supplements, check the ingredients label right now to see what form of vitamin B-12 they contain. If they contain cyanocobalamin, throw them out!

    Cyanocobalamin is a cheap, synthetic chemical made in a laboratory. It’s virtually impossible for you to find this form in nature. Low-end vitamin manufacturers use it because it can be bought in bulk and added to products with claims that they “contain vitamin B-12!” What they don’t tell you is that the vitamin is bound to a toxic, poisonous cyanide molecule that must then be removed from your body by your liver. Cyanocobalamin is also up to 100 times cheaper than the higher quality Methylcobalamin.
    Sub-lingual Methylcobalamin is available in Indian market in a medical store. Ask for the following brand – which is a known sub-lingual:
    For deficiency of Vitamin B-12, take 1 tablet sub-lingually every day for 15-20 days or until the deficiency symptoms subside and the patient starts feeling better.
    For maintenance purposes, take 1 tablet sub-lingually every alternate day for 15-20 days.

    It is always better to include Folic Acid (FOLVITE) tablet that can be taken orally with water. Dosage: Half tablet ‘Folvite’ or 2mg – 3 mg Folic Acid tablet (of any other brand) before or after ‘Nurokind – OD’. This will effectively treat ‘Pernicious Anaemia’.

    Ordinary Methylcobalamin – in oral tablet form is NOT Sub-Lingual and hence will not work and is not likely to be absorbed in an adult patient’s small intestine. So it will be wasted without treating the deficiency symptoms.
    For any inquiry, please email me: indian_mail (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) in mentioning your mobile No.
    Good Luck.

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