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Research Shows B12 Heart Benefits for Vegetarians

Vegetarian diets are commonly viewed as healthier than diets that include a lot of meat, mainly due to the lower fat content found in vegetarian proteins. However, research has shown that vegetarians often eat a lot of salt and do not get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, both of which put them at higher risk for heart problems.

A study from researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong examined the effects of vitamin B12 on atherosclerosis (or hardening of the arteries) on otherwise healthy vegetarians with vitamin B12 deficiencies. Their results were published online ahead of print in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging.

The study included 43 vegetarians with an average age of 45. Over the course of 12 weeks, the participants consumed either 500 micrograms per day of vitamin B12 or a placebo. They then conducted a 10 week washout period, during which time no interventions were undertaken, which was followed by a crossover to the other intervention.

The researchers noted higher serum levels of vitamin B12 and lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been associated with heart disease. They also noted an increase in flow-mediated dilation (FMD) (the measure of a blood vessel's ability to relax) from 6.3% to 6.9% in the supplement group but not in the placebo group and decreased thickness of the carotid artery walls from 0.69 to 0.67 mm.

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that is essential in the proper function of the brain, nervous system and formation of blood. Deficiencies in vitamin B12 can lead to fatigue, depression and memory lapses.

Food sources of vitamin B12 include liver, turkey giblets, oysters, clams, king crab and whole milk. If your diet is not rich in these products, you should consider supplementing with a high quality multivitamin or vitamin B12 supplement.

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