What vitamins must carnivores take

Does a B12 deficiency also occur in meat eaters?

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Meat eaters can also develop a B12 deficiency. Image: Umberto Salvagnin, flickr.com (edit.) Image title: Sofia - tired, CC-BY

Vitamin B12 is absolutely necessary for a healthy nervous system in our body. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to severe and permanent damage to the nerves including the spinal cord (funicular myelosis). For this reason, all people - vegans and meat eaters - need to get enough B12 to stay healthy.

But although vitamin B12 (and the lack of it) is very often linked to a vegan diet, the B12 supply also affects meat eaters. The large selection of non-vegan vitamin B12 supplements on the market shows that vegans are by no means the main target group.

B12 deficiency also occurs in meat eaters.

If you look at experience reports and figures on the Internet, it sometimes even seems as if there is vitamin B12 most notably a meat eater problem. Vegans are on their guard because they are confronted with the topic again and again practically from the start. Unlike meat eaters, who are often mistaken in the belief that their standard diet, which is often not very carefully planned, is particularly healthy - and who often not only have a hidden B12 deficiency, but also an undersupply of folic acid and vitamin D.


For this reason, meat eaters should also have their family doctor checked their B12 status on a regular basis (important information can be found here).

Vitamin B12 is produced by microorganisms.

It is true that it is always said that vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal products - but that is only half the story. Because vitamin B12 is by no means produced by animals themselves, but by microorganisms. Animals from industrial animal husbandry that are unable to obtain natural sources of vitamin B12 are therefore given systematic doses of synthetically produced vitamin B12. In other words: Vegans supplement vitamin B12 directly as a B12 preparation - meat eaters indirectly via the animal supplied with B12. But (almost) everyone does supplementation anyway.


Basically, there are definitely options for B12 intake without pills or injections. And not only humans depend on vitamin B12, but also other mammals, including pure herbivores. Since vitamin B12-forming microorganisms settle in the intestines, among other things, animal feces are often particularly rich in vitamin B12. Guinea pigs conveniently consume their own excrement to absorb vitamin B12. But many animals also get the vitamin through contaminated plants. It's not particularly appetizing and also carries certain risks. But B12 supply is often rather dirty in nature.

Vitamin B12 can also be produced in the laboratory.

We humans, on the other hand, prefer things to be hygienic and have therefore developed other options for obtaining sufficient amounts of vitamin B12. One possibility is the production in the laboratory. Nature-identical forms of the vitamin can be created (e.g. methylcobalamin), but also synthetic forms (e.g. cyanocobalamin). More about the forms of vitamin B12.


However, vitamin B12 also occurs in inactive forms that cannot be used by the body. For this reason z. B. Sauerkraut, bread, seaweed and beer are usually not suitable as a reliable source of B12, although small amounts of B12 can often be found in them.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is particularly common in older people - including meat-eaters and vegetarians. To absorb the vitamin, the body produces a protein in the stomach, the so-called intrinsic factor. With age, the amount of intrinsic factor decreases - and the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency increases. Anyone who discovers symptoms of a B12 deficiency should therefore see their family doctor as soon as possible to start therapy. This is usually done via injections and lasts for several weeks.

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Author: Kilian Thirty