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Impact of vitamin B12 supplement intake cessation on vitamin B12 status in a healthy vegan: A close interval monitoring case study.

Nutrition 2024 May 8
BACKGROUND: Healthy plant-based diets, such as the lacto-ovo-vegetarian and the vegan diet, offer numerous benefits to human health. Poorly designed plant-based diets, however, bear the risk for vitamin- and micronutrient deficiencies. Vitamin B12 (B12, cobalamin) is a nutrient of particular concern in both diets, and should be readily supplemented on a continuous basis to ensure adequate B12 levels and to prevent deficiencies.

CASE REPORT: This case reports describes the history of a healthy man in his mid-30s who adopted a vegan diet approximately 10 y ago. Well informed about the risks of vitamin B12 deficiency on a plant-based diet, he regularly supplemented methylcobalamin for years (single oral dose: 500 µg, 3-4 times a week) in order to maintain an adequate vitamin B12 status. In late 2023, however, he decided to cease B12 supplementation for undisclosed reasons. Subsequent to this decision, we closely monitored his B12 status and longitudinally measured serum B12, homocysteine, and holotranscobalamin (holo-TC). Total serum folate was also determined as it is a modifier of homocysteine concentration. A gradual decrease in holo-TC and vitamin B12 levels was observed after 4 weeks and supplements had to be re-introduced after 16 weeks. Homocysteine increased concomitantly up to 18.2 μmol/L after 20 weeks.

CONCLUSIONS: While a short-term B12 supplement intake cessation might be well tolerated by vegans with an adequate B12 status, an interruption of more than 8 weeks could signify B12 loss approaching suboptimal status. This case report reiterates the need for continuous B12 supplementation in persons following an unfortified plant-based diet.

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