A UK report has shown that half of young people in their 20s are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency which may be due to the rising trend in plant-based diets and could have serious health consequences.
Results showed that 55% of women and 40% of men in their 20s had low levels of vitamin B12 which may be due to the rising trend of vegan and plant-based diets. At least 36% of vegans in the UK are between the ages of 25 and 34 years old and research shows that up to 90% of vegans and vegetarians may be deficient in vitamin B12.
YorkTest Scientific Director Dr Gill Hart said that the study was interesting because it challenged scientific evidence that vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in older people and could be due to diets with reduced vitamin intake.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays a vital role in supporting energy metabolism, nerve function and producing DNA, however the body does not naturally produce it and deficiency can cause fatigue, blurred vision, poor memory, depression, anaemia, damage to the nervous system, and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Studies have shown that optimal levels of vitamin B12 may reduce inflammation, protect against cognitive impairment, improve memory and lower the risk of dementia, while another study found that low vitamin B12 levels may lead to brain shrinkage due to loss of brain cells.
Health expert, Vanessa Ascencao said that around one quarter of the population may be deficient in vitamin B12 which can have negative consequences, particularly for young people, as the brain is still developing. Deficiency has been linked to conditions such as autism, schizophrenia, and can even mirror symptoms of dementia.
“Ensure a healthy diet that includes good sources of meat, chicken, and eggs, fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, and healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish. When following a plant-based diet, plan meals ahead, prioritise a variety of nutrient-rich foods such as spinach, beetroot, and chickpeas, and avoid sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and processed foods as these reduce vitamin B12,” said Ascencao.
“Do regular health checks and try high-quality supplements with proven absorption,” Ascencao added.