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Vitamin B12 and folate status in Spanish lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans

  • Angélica Gallego-Narbón (a1), Belén Zapatera (a1), Laura Barrios (a2) and M. Pilar Vaquero (a1)

Abstract

Studies on the nutritional status of vegetarians in Spain are lacking. Prevention of vitamin B12 deficiency is the main concern, as dietary sources are of animal origin. The present study aimed to evaluate vitamin B12 and folate status of Spanish vegetarians using classical markers and functional markers. Participants were adult and healthy lacto-ovo vegetarians (forty-nine subjects) and vegans (fifty-four subjects) who underwent blood analyses and completed a FFQ. Serum vitamin B12, homocysteine (Hcy), methylmalonic acid (MMA), erythrocyte folate and haematological parameters were determined. The effects of the type of plant-based diet, and the intake of supplements and foods were studied by a FFQ. Mean erythrocyte folate was 1704 (sd 609) nmol/l. Clinical or subclinical vitamin B12 deficiency was detected in 11 % of the subjects (MMA>271 nmol/l) and 33 % of the participants showed hyperhomocysteinaemia (Hcy>15 µmol/l). Regarding plant-based diet type, significantly higher Hcy was observed in lacto-ovo vegetarians compared with vegans (P = 0·019). Moreover, use of vitamin B12 supplements involved an improvement of vitamin B12 status but further increase in erythrocyte folate (P = 0·024). Consumption of yoghurts was weakly associated with serum vitamin B12 adequacy (P = 0·049) and that of eggs with lower Hcy (P = 0·030). In conclusion, Spanish vegetarians present high folate status but vitamin B12 subclinical deficiency was demonstrated using functional markers. The lack of influence of dietary sources on functional markers and the strong effect of vitamin B12 supplement intake emphasise the need of cobalamin supplementation in both lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: M. Pilar Vaquero, email mpvaquero@ictan.csic.es

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Keywords

Vitamin B12 and folate status in Spanish lacto-ovo vegetarians and vegans

  • Angélica Gallego-Narbón (a1), Belén Zapatera (a1), Laura Barrios (a2) and M. Pilar Vaquero (a1)

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