Vitamin B12 Intake From Animal Foods, Biomarkers, and Health Aspects

Rima Obeid, Sandra G. Heil, Maxime M.A. Verhoeven, Ellen G.H.M. van den Heuvel, Lisette C.P.G.M. De Groot, Simone J.P.M. Eussen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The EAT-Lancet commission recently suggested that transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require a reduction of at least 50% in consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar, and a doubling in the global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits. Notably, the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency increases when consuming a diet low in animal products. Humans are dependent on animal foods such as dairy products, meat, fish and eggs. Vitamin B12 deficiency is common worldwide, especially in populations with low consumption of animal foods because of low socioeconomic status, ethical reasons, or because of their lifestyle (i.e., vegans). According to the European Food Safety Authoroty, the recommended adequate intake of vitamin B12 is 4.0 μg/d for adults, and vitamin B12 requirements are higher during pregnancy and lactation. Infants and children from deficient mothers and elderly people are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency is hampered by low specificity of available biomarkers, and there is no consensus yet regarding the optimal definition of low vitamin B12 status. In general, a combination of at least two biomarkers is recommended. Therefore, this review presents an overview of vitamin B12 biochemistry and its biomarkers. We further summarize current recommendations of vitamin B12 intake, and evidence on the associations of vitamin B12 intake from different nutrient-dense animal foods with vitamin B12 status markers. Finally, potential consequences of low vitamin B12 status on different health outcomes for pregnant women, infants and elderly are presented.
Original languageEnglish
Article number93
Number of pages18
JournalFrontiers in Nutrition
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2019

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