Supplementing B12 daily could improve the arterial function and reduce the risk of atherosclerosis in vegetarians, research shows.
Improvements were found in flow-mediated dilation (FMD), a measure of a blood vessel's healthy ability to relax, of vegetarians with low levels of B12 who received daily supplements of the vitamin.
It is a common belief that vegetarians are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, but recent research suggests that if diets are deficient in vitamin B12, and high in salt, there could be an increased risk of atherosclerosis.
"Vitamin B-12 deficiency is prevelant among older people and vegetarians and is mostly asymptomatic. For vegetarians, apart from direct vitamin B-12 supplementation, vitamin B-12 deficiency is also preventable by higher and adequate intake of dairy products, eggs and fortified cereals," explained the researchers.
The study tested whether 12 weeks of supplementation with 500 micrograms per day of vitamin B12 could affect vascular health in 43 healthy vegetarians with an average age of 45. Results showed increases in blood levels of B12 in the B12 groups as well as lowering amino acids associated with heart disease. B12 supplementation also increased FMD from 6.3% to 6.9%.
"Vitamin B-12 supplementation in asymptomatic vegetarians with compromised vitamin B-12 status may lead to a significant improvement in arterial endothelial function and carotid intima-media thickness, with potential benefit on cardiovascular health."
Source: The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging
Study: "Vitamin B-12 supplementation improves arterial function in vegetarians with subnormal vitamin B-12 status"