Dairy products, meat and fish are good sources of vitamin B12 for pregnant women. Supplements are required by pregnant vegetarians. This is evident from a study by Maastricht University involving 1266 Dutch pregnant women.
The results were recently published in the scientific platform The Journal of Nutrition. Never before there has been done research into the effect of vitamin B12 from animal foods on B12 levels in pregnant women.
The study was conducted among pregnant women who took part in the KOALA study by Maastricht University, focusing on the causes of allergy and asthma and the development and growth of children. The aim of the study was to see how meat, fish, dairy and eggs contribute to vitamin B12 supply (and to any vitamin B12 deficiency) in pregnant women.
Animal products good source of B12
In pregnant Dutch women, a higher intake of vitamin B12 from dairy, meat and fish was positively associated with vitamin B12 status, suggesting that dairy, meat and fish are good sources of bioactive vitamin B12 in pregnancy. The vitamin B12 intake in the diet was: 5.1 μg/day in omnivorous women, 4.3 μg/day in pescatarians (do not eat meat and dairy, but do eat fish) and 2.3 μg/day in lactovegetarians (they avoid all meat, poultry and fish but do eat dairy, with or without eggs).
Increased chance of B12 deficiency in vegetarians
Of the 1266 participants, 75 pregnant women did not consume meat, 27 of whom did not consume fish. In this latter group of women, lactovegetarians, vitamin B12 intake was on average less than half that of the women who did eat meat and fish. They were also more likely to have vitamin B12 deficiency than women who ate meat and fish, namely 11 percent compared to 1.8 percent in omnivorous women and 2.2 percent in pescatarians. Researchers emphasise the fact that the group of vegetarians in this study was limited (only 27 of the 1266 participants).
B12 supplementation advised
The researchers call for further research into the effects that eating a diet that contains no animal products has on vitamin B12 supply. Until then, they recommend taking a vitamin B12 supplement for everyone, not just pregnant women who do not eat animal products. This advice also applies to vegans and most lactovegetarians.