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Cutting-Edge Food Technology is Changing The World's Perspective Towards Vitamin B12 Sources

Dr Navneet Singh Deora, Chief Technology Officer, Blue Tribe Foods

Conventional researchers have always believed that only foods derived from animals are the main sources of vitamin B12. Strict vegans and even some vegetarians have limited sources of vitamin B12 in their diet and therefore are likely to have vitamin B12 deficiency. Reduced consumption of vitamin B12 from food leads to a severe deficiency when tissue stores of the vitamin are depleted. Additionally, in countries such as India, where the diets are mainly cereal-and-pulse based, vitamin B12 deficiencies are common. 

Vitamins b12 deficiencies can include:  

  • Weakness, tiredness, or light-headedness
  • Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • A smooth tongue
  • Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, or gas 
  • Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
  • Vision loss
  • Mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioral changes

In this article, we will talk about the new-age strategies and innovations that can boost Vitamin B12 in the vegan population without necessarily adhering to animal-based food items:

1. Introduction

Vitamin B12 is the largest and most complex of all the vitamins (Refer to Figure 1). The name Vitamin B12 is generic for a specific group of cobalt-containing corrinoids with biological activity in humans. Cyanocobalamin is a form of vitamin B12 that is widely used clinically due to its availability and stability. It is transformed into active factors in the body. 


Figure 1 Molecular formula of cyanocobalamin
(Source: DSM)


Vitamin B12 is produced exclusively by the microbial synthesis in the digestive tract of animals. Therefore, animal protein products are the source of vitamin B12 for the human diet, in particular organ meats (liver, kidney). Other good sources are fish, eggs and dairy products. Refer to Table 1 below for the Vitamin B12 content of foods.

Table 1 Vitamin B12 content of foods (Source: DSM)


Vitamin B12 (μg/100g)

Beef liver 65




Blue mussel






Cheese (Camembert)




2. Innovations to Boost Vitamins B12

Considering the absence of Vitamins B12 in the vegetarian’s populations, the below-mentioned section of the article aims to highlight some of the research that has been shown to boost Vitamin B12. To summarize, refer to Figure 2 below.

Figure 2 Mind map depicting various Innovations to Boost Vitamins B12

2.1 Lactic acid bacteria producing Vitamin B12

As a winning alternative to the chemical synthesis of vitamins, specific biotechnological processes for vitamin inclusion in foods have been developed in the last century. LAB strains isolated from fermented foods have been found to be cobalamin. For example, L. reuteri CRL1098 (a strain isolated from sourdough) has been the first documented example of cobalamin-producer among LAB. This finding provides a major advantage for potential metabolic engineering strategies aiming to transfer the Vitamin B12 production capability to other bacteria.

2.2 Organic fertilizers 

Several studies have highlighted that plants grown with organic fertilizers often contain higher concentrations of vitamins B1 (thiamin) and B12 (cyanocobalamin) in comparison to those grown with inorganic fertilizers. Since plant roots were recently shown to be able to absorb B1 and B12, it was thus suspected that organic fertilizers (such as manure of diverse sources or sewage sludge) integrate additional vitamins into the soil. This leads to increased vitamins in the plants through roots uptake (Refer Figure 3).


Figure 3 Use of Organic fertilizers to Boost Vitamin B12  in vegetable 

2.3 Hydroponics

Hydroponic cultivation is an emerging technology that allows better control of water and nutrient supply. It improves plant productivity and reduces the use of pesticides (Refer Figure 4).

Figure 4 Hydroponics to increase the Vitamin B12 in plant-based diet

(Source: Production and Characterization of Cyanocobalamin-Enriched Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) Grown Using Hydroponics)


2.4 Edible Mushroom

High levels of Vitamin B12 are found in dried Shiitake Mushroom fruiting bodies (Lentinula edodes), which are used in various vegetarian dishes. 

2.5 Marine Plants

2.5.1 Edible Algae 

Research data suggest that certain species of Algae have a natural presence of Vitamin B12 for growth. For example, Dried Green Laver (Enteromorpha sp.) and Purple Laver (Porphyra sp.) contain substantial amounts of Vitamin B12. In fact, Vitamin B12 is one of the mandatory elements required for the growth of most Algae species. This information is critical and can be utilized for exploring ways in which mass production of the Algae can be done with a tangible presence of Vitamin B12. 

2.5.2 Duckweed 

A company (Parabel Nutrition, Florida) in the United States has claimed that they found a natural source of Vitamin B12 in Duckweeds. The plant (Duckweed) can grow on top of still water and doubles in size every 16-32 hours. Therefore, it can be harvested every day. As of now, Parabel has already developed a patented hydroponic system to grow, process and commercialize the plant as a prime source of natural and organic Vitamin B12 alternative. 


Figure 5 Duckweed 


Moving Forward

Notwithstanding the shared conviction that only animal-based food items can fulfil the needs of Vitamin B12, advanced researches have proved that a few purely vegetarian ingredients are, in fact, rich suppliers of the same. These vegetarian ingredients can be used as alternatives to supplement the needs of Vitamin B12 and fortify plant-based food items. 

Given the continuously deteriorating conditions of our environment, for which over-consumption of animal-based food products is significantly responsible, it has become all the more essential to continue researching scalable options for plant-based sources of vitamin B12. Humankind needs to explore potential metabolic engineering capabilities of other bacteria to produce Vitamin B12. For now, this is the only way the world can take conscious steps towards a sustainable and rejuvenating future.  

Some questions we get asked often:

    A. Yes. Its 100% Vegan

    A. Our Keema is Gluten-free. Our Nuggets however, are coated with bread crumbs and therefore are not gluten free.

    A. This is because we taste exactly like chicken and pork. It still blows our minds that these flavours are derived from plants and no animals were harmed in the making of these delicious #crueltyfree treats that are 100% vegetarian.
    A. Currently only our Keema is suitable for Jains.


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