Q: I’ve heard that as a vegetarian I should take a vitamin B12 supplement. Is this true?
– Lori in Detroit
A: Yes, especially if you’re a vegan and avoid all foods of animal origin. This vitamin is found only in animal products and fortified foods, such as some soy milks and breakfast cereals. A few studies have found that vegetarians who don’t take a supplement tend to be lower in this B vitamin than those who supplement. Low vitamin B12 intake over long periods of time can cause degeneration of the nervous system, elevated homocysteine levels associated with heart disease and memory loss, and anemia. Young people should make sure their supplement contains approximately 2 micrograms of vitamin B12, while need increases as we age, with older people needing 5 to 20 micrograms a day. – Elizabeth Somer