A B12 Deficiency May Counteract a Plant-Based Diet

Many of the benefits of a plant-based diet, such as a lower body mass index, blood pressure and cholesterol, may be counteracted by a B12 deficiency.

When the body does not get enough B12, levels of homocysteine begin to rise. This damaging compound causes arteries to stiffen.

One Taiwanese study found that vegetarian test subjects had the same amount of thickening in their carotid arteries as meat-eaters. The herbivores also had higher levels of homocysteine than their omnivore counterparts.

In addition to stiff arteries, increased levels of homocysteine can lead to pulmonary embolism, stroke, and heard attack.

While these side effects may sound scary, the findings should not be considered evidence of neutral cardiovascular effects of vegetarianism. Instead, it should reinforce the importance of B12 in plant-based diets.

You can help lower your homocysteine levels by eating foods that are high in folate, like breakfast cereals, fortified grain products, lentils, and asparagus.

If adjusting your diet does not lower your homocysteine levels enough, your doctor may recommend supplements such as folate, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

These small changes can help you get back on the path to better health while eating a plant-based diet.