Vegans cannot get enough vitamin B12 from a plant-based diet to maintain proper health.
While it is true that B12 is not produced by plants, it is also not produced by animals. Rather, B12 is the byproduct of a specific bacterial fermentation that thrives in soil, some fermented plant matter, dead flesh and the guts of animals. Fortunately, this bacteria is easily mass-produced for human consumption now, and many foods are fortified with it, so there is no need to eat animals in order to receive sufficient B12.
It is a common misconception that B12 comes from the flesh of animals. However, the truth is far more complex. For instance, ruminant mammals like cows and sheep have stomachs with multiple chambers, and these are excellent growing environments for the bacteria that make B12. Equally important are the grasses these animals eat straight from the soil, which is another primary source of this nutrient. Taken together, the stomachs of ruminant mammals and the soil in the vegetation they eat provide them with the B12 their bodies need. In humans, however, B12 grows in the large intestine, which is located beneath the ileum where it is absorbed. Further, most of us are unwilling to eat unwashed produce, so we do not receive sufficient B12 from the soil. This leaves us with a choice. We can either consume the flesh of dead animals, which contains the B12 the animal has absorbed and is itself another medium for the growth of this bacteria, or we can supplement with B12. Interestingly, factory-farmed animals are regularly fed B12 supplements for various reasons, so it is logical to conclude that we could simply take a B12 supplement as well rather than passing it through the body of a non-human animal first.
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