What are the benefits for Vegans (or vice versa) of vitamins?

Are we really sure what vitamins do (or don’t do) for vegan health? Here is a little vade mecum for guidance that may help. By the way this list is not meant as a medical instruction or guideline, it is up to all vegans to do their own research regarding the benefits of vitamins (or not) and act accordingly.

Please remember: Vegan healthy, Vegan wise, Veganpicks!


Vitamin A is required for growth, normal development and to prevent numerous tissue issues

Deficiency of Vitamin A can result in eye problems such as dryness of the eye which may lead to permanent eye damage or night blindness.

Vitamin A if not naturally obtained through a vegan diet should be supported by a stand-alone supplement to ensure healthy growth and development.


Thiamin is required principally as a metabolic to counter the combined consumption of carbohydrate, fat and alcohol. Diets high in carbohydrate need more thiamin than diets high in fat. Increased Thiamin offers some support for a variety of adults, and children but makes no difference for the elderly or their requirements with age.


Riboflavin is basically an oxidative process. A reduction in Riboflavin can impact on oxygen consumption rather than an impact on metabolism processes. A reduction of Riboflavin can result in mouth, skin, genitalia and eye issues.


Niacin is important in regard to metabolism and is allied with energy spent. Deficiency in Niacin can result in pellagra, a sunburn type skin condition, in areas of the body exposed to sunlight and other body areas subjected to pressure. Untreated pellagra is fatal.


Vitamin B6 is a mixture of a metabolic interconvertible. PLP is a cofactor for a host of enzymes catalysing reactions of amino acids. These acids are important for the body’s metabolism and thus are related to the total amount of amino acids to be metabolised.


This is the big one for Vegans so let’s look at this essential vitamin in greater detail. 

Vitamin B12 is an atom of cobalt, the sole function known for cobalt in humans.

Vitamin B12 deficiency results in the same syndrome as folate deficiency (or anaemia) and nerve myelination, and prolonged deficiency leads to irreversible neurological damage.

The NHS advises that the General symptoms of anaemia may include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue) 
  • lack of energy (lethargy) 
  • breathlessness 
  • feeling faint 
  • headaches
  • pale skin 
  • noticeable heartbeats (palpitations)
  • hearing sounds coming from inside the body, rather than from an outside source (tinnitus)
  • loss of appetite and weight loss

Food sources of vitamin B12, include almost all animal products (unfortunately for vegans) and certain algae (viz. seaweeds, etc.) and bacteria, which can synthesise it. Green plants contain no B12 unless they are contaminated by bacteria or algae.

The most common reason for B12 deficiency in humans is not dietary but a failure of secretion, which can lead to anaemia. 

Diet related B12 deficiency has been noted in some strict vegans, who do not obtain B12 from their food or other sources which is why B12 supplements are always advised for vegans.

B12 supplements are in general non-toxic and recommended for strict vegans.


Folic acid is the parent of derivatives known as folates which are involved in single carbon transfer reactions. Food sources of folate include green leafy vegetables however folate is also recommended to be consumed as an added supplement because the chemical species is not present in food or human tissues.


Pantothenic acid is a part of the coenzyme A molecule which plays an essential role in the catabolism of all the macro-nutrients to yield energy. Fortunately, this acid is available in plant tissues. Pantothenic acid deficiency in humans is not proven.


Vitamin C plays an essential role in the healing of wounds and the absorption of non-haem iron. It is a vital antioxidant. It is also a modulator in essential mixed function oxidase enzyme reactions, but is easily destroyed by oxygen, heat or light.

For Vegans; Vitamin C sources are available from citrus, soft fruits and growing type vegetables.

In addition, Vitamin C supplements are recommended for deficiencies and even scurvy.

Note:  Smokers will need to increase their level of Vitamin C consumption to maintain their body pool.


Vitamin D is the active form of the vitamin involved in calcium. Deficiency in adults of Vitamin D can result in muscle weakness, bone problems, spinal issues, shoulder, ribs, and pelvis problems.

Margarine is required by law to contain vitamin D, so vegans are well served, however in the UK the main source of vitamin D is exposure to sun for at least half-an-hour.

Please remember: Vegan healthy, Vegan wise, Veganpicks!


As a footnote to this short list please remember that It is absolutely essential for Vegans to look at their own personal dietary requirements and absolutely try to include healthy supplements in order to top up a vegan body pool of essential nutritional needs.

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ADAPTED FROM “Dietary references for Food energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom” Report of the Panel on Dietary Reference values, (London), TSO, 1991

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