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News - B12 May Boost Cardiovascular Health for Vegetarians

By Holly Taylor BSc (Hons) DipCNM MBANT NTCC

Vitamin B12 is important for red blood cell formation, energy production, nerve function and cell division. Along with other B vitamins it is also important for the process of methylation which helps to keep levels of artery-damaging homocysteine in check.

It is commonly believed that vegetarians have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, but some data has indicated that vegetarian diets can be low in vitamin B12, and relatively high in salt, both of which may increase the risk of hardened arteries. B12 is naturally only found in foods of animal origin, so those who are vegetarian or vegan may be missing out unless they’re regularly consuming eggs, cheese or fortified cereals.

The good news is that a recent study from China has shown that daily B12 supplements can help to improve arterial function in vegetarians. The new study aimed to test if 12 weeks of supplementation with 500 micrograms per day of vitamin B12 could affect vascular health in 43 healthy vegetarians with an average age of 45. Participants were randomly assigned to receive dummy pills or the supplements. After completing the intervention, a ten-week ‘washout’ period was observed before the participants were crossed over to the other intervention.

Results showed a significant increase in blood levels of vitamin B12 in the B12 groups, as well as a lowering of homocysteine. In addition, B12 supplementation improved the participants’ flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a measure of a blood vessel's healthy ability to relax and reduced the average thickness of the artery walls from 0.69 to 0.67mm.

Commenting on their results, the scientists wrote: “Vitamin B-12 supplementation in asymptomatic vegetarians with compromised vitamin B-12 status may lead to a significant improvement in arterial endothelial function and carotid intima-media thickness, with potential benefit on cardiovascular health”.  

Article References

Kwok T et al. “Vitamin B-12 supplementation improves arterial function in vegetarians with subnormal vitamin B-12 status” The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging

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