Aloe Vera: Not a Source of Vitamin B12

A reader told me that she has been seeing aloe vera talked about as a source of vitamin B12 recently. HerbWisdom.com says, “Aloe vera is one of the only known natural vegetarian sources of Vitamin B12,…”

Sigh. It turns out that there have been a couple studies which show that aloe vera enhances the absorption of vitamin B12 for older people:

Yun JM, Singh S, Jialal R, Rockwood J, Jialal I, Devaraj S. A Randomized Placebo-Controlled Crossover trial of Aloe Vera on Bioavailability of Vitamins C and B(12), Blood Glucose, and Lipid Profile in Healthy Human Subjects. J Diet Suppl. 2010 Jun;7(2):145-53. | link

Devaraj, S., Patel, S., Jialal, R., Jialal, I. Aloe supplements enhance bioavailability of vitamin C and B12 in older adults. The FASEB Journal: Experimental Biology 2007 Abstracts 8.1-701.35. Washington, DC; April 28-May 2, 2007. | cited here

Of course, increasing absorption of B12 is not the same as actually containing it. (Please note that I don’t know anything about how to increase B12 absorption through the use of aloe vera.)

And, unsurprisingly, I couldn’t find anything on PubMed that would indicate aloe vera actually contains vitamin B12.

Next!

47 Responses to “Aloe Vera: Not a Source of Vitamin B12”

  1. Janae Wise Says:

    Funny, why are people so adverse to just taking a tiny, 100% proven source of vitamin b-12 supplement?

    Just take it, and get on with life, that’s what I say.

    Thanks for setting us straight once again Jack.

  2. Sugarlake Says:

    Recently someone told me that there is B12 in comfrey and i responded that there is no known plant food that contains usable B12. He got very upset about that, telling me that i’m misinformed and mentioned that he has been a raw vegan for over 10 years and is completely healthy.
    So my question is why are there people who seem to thrive without supplements? I’m very confused right now because i trust in science and not in some vegan guru’s crazy talk.

  3. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Sugarlake,

    There could be a number of reasons for someone to be apparently healthy without vitamin B12 supplements. They could have started out with very high levels of vitamin B12 and have a high ability to conserve it. They could have an overgrowth of vitamin B12-producing bacteria in their small intestines – this isn’t a good thing, but it could provide B12. They might not be being honest about never taking B12 supplements or eating fortified foods or any animal products. Some seaweeds might contain vitamin B12, particularly through contamination. But there is no debate about one thing – plants do not create vitamin B12.

    Note that I said “apparently” healthy above, as there might be damage occurring that, at some point, will become evident. Marek pointed out on another thread:

    The best study concerning the long-term effects of a vegan diet without B12 comes from the 1950s when the vitamin B12 had only been recently discovered.

    http://www.ajcn.org/content/3/5/375.short

    “About 20 per cent of the subjects complained of pains in the back and spine. Some of these had “stiff” poker backs, so characteristic that they were termed ‘vegan’ backs. Three deaths occurred, all among vegans of several years’ standing. One of these was due to cancer which was present before the vegan diet was adopted. The other two death were associated with mental disease.”

    And here are more individuals: veganhealth.org/b12/cases

    In my opinion, it is a fool’s errand to rely on anything but B12 supplements, or fortified foods for vitamin B12 on a vegan diet. This person should consider himself a laboratory experiment with a high possibility of that experiment going wrong at some point.

  4. Sugarlake Says:

    Thank you that’s good to hear you are really doing a great job educating people about nutrition.
    It seems that with all the evidence out there it would be irrational and risky to not take supplements. I know another vegan who drinks sprouted wheat juice for B12. There is no way i could convince him to take supplements. The ignorance of some people can really be exasperating.

  5. Hominessapientes Says:

    Doug Graham, author of the ’80/10/10 Diet’, claims that last time he took a B12 supplement in the Eighties, about 25 years ago, and that he heals B12-deficient patients by controlled fasting. After the fasting period they develop healthy B12-levels without taking supplement. Thus he concludes the problem in almost all cases to be absorption rather than content, since the bacteria of the nasal area, the mouth and the small intestine would produce more than sufficient amounts of B12, given the tissues and their bacterial flora are healthy.

  6. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Hominessapientes

    I respond to Doug Graham’s claims here: http://jacknorrisrd.com/?p=1391

  7. Michael Morris Says:

    Another way that a raw food vegan may be getting vitamin B12 is by not washing fruit and veges and so getting B12 from the bacteria growing on them. It is also possible to get B12 from not brushing your teeth, but the harm from tooth decay would far outweigh any benefit from this.

  8. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Michael,

    I have never seen any evidence that unwashed produce normally contains vitamin B12-producing bacteria, that such bacteria could produce physiologically significant amounts of vitamin B12 on the produce, or that the bacteria is able to populate itself in the human digestive tract and produce useable B12.

    > It is also possible to get B12 from not brushing your teeth,

    I have never seen evidence of this. The bacteria responsible for dental caries is not the same bacteria that produces vitamin B12 and tooth brushing doesn’t necessarily remove bacteria but rather removes the plaque.

    There is no reason to think that raw foodists have any advantage over other vegans when it comes to vitamin B12:

    http://veganhealth.org/b12/raw

    I would treat any claims from vegan raw foodist gurus that they do not take vitamin B12 with skepticism.

  9. kim wright Says:

    According to Dr Peter Atherton, who embarked on a two year fellowship with Oxford university examining the medicinal properties of Aloe Vera, in his book “Aloe Vera The Medicine Plant” “Aloe Vera is one of the rare plant sources of this (Vitamin B12) essential vitamin…” page 31 ISBN: 0-9540896-1-8

  10. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Kim,

    I couldn’t find a copy of the book on-line – do you have a copy to let us know what his evidence is?

  11. Michael Fons Says:

    Hi,
    I heard that SauerKraut has vitamin b12 – not in the cabbage, but in the live cutlers, bacteria, living in it. I doubt that Aloe has any B12 though unless there is some sort of bacteria living in it that would contain B12. Neverthless, I think the FDA should test both sauerkraut and aloe for B12 and post the results on their website.

  12. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Michael,

    For a food to reliably have vitamin B12 due to fermentation, a vitamin B12-producing bacteria has to be required for its fermentation. The bacteria required for fermenting sauerkraut are not vitamin B12-producing bacteria. The only reason a particular batch of sauerkraut would have a vitamin B12-producing bacteria would be from cross-contamination, which is possible but unlikely for any given batch.

  13. Michael Fons Says:

    Thanks for the quick reply. Do you happen to know which species of bacteria produce B12? Also, I just read an article in Nature that says that Algae acquire vitamin B12 through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria, and that Nori can contain as much B12 as liver. Please let me know your thoughts on that. Thanks again for your help.

  14. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Michael,

    I know of at least some of them:

    http://veganhealth.org/b12/vegansources

    Here are my thoughts on Nori, etc:

    http://veganhealth.org/b12/plant

  15. Alan Says:

    Could you please comment on wheatgrass as a source of B12?

  16. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Alan,

    There is no reason to think that wheatgrass would be a source of vitamin B12.

  17. Michael Fons Says:

    Dear Jack,
    I read an article about the lactic acid bacteria, Lactobacillus reuteri, being shown to produce B12. I am curious if sauerkraut makers inoculated their sauerkraut with this bacteria if it would produce B12, and what the effects of eating that sauerkraut would have on MMA levels. Please let me know your thoughts.

  18. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Michael,

    I found a thesis written by a PhD candidate on the subject, Vitamin B12 synthesis in Lactobacillus reuteri:

    http://www.researchgate.net/publication/230910570_Vitamin_B12_synthesis_in_Lactobacillus_reuteri

    From the abstract, I cannot understand if the “B12″ produced by L. reuteri must be further manipulated to become active vitamin B12. I plan to read the (rather long) paper to try figure it out as I get time. It looks like a very interesting thesis.

    If the B12 produced by L. reuteri is active vitamin B12, and there is enough cobalt provided in the sauerkraut, then the only way to know if it would work is to try it…

  19. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Michael,

    I have read the pertinent parts of the thesis mentioned above and it is clear that the “vitamin B12″ produced by L. reuteri is not active vitamin B12 for humans. Here are a few excerpts (of many):

    “The corrinoid extracted by L. reuteri under anaerobic conditions has been identified as Coα-[α-(7-adenyl)]-Coβ-cyanocobamide, commonly known as pseudovitamin B12.”

    “Another important aspect of the identification of pseudovitamin B12 as the sole corrinoid produced by L. reuteri under anaerobic conditions, concerns the physiological role of B12 co-factors.”

  20. Michael Fons Says:

    Hi Jack,
    I saw some Kombucha tea at the grocery store today, and it says on the Nutrition facts it has 20% of daily allowance of Vitamin B12. I am curious your thoughts on B12 in Kombucha Tea. The Brand I was looking at is called GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha.

  21. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Michael,

    I don’t see an ingredients list for the drink, but unless you know a plant food is fortified with B12 you shouldn’t rely on it for B12.

  22. Latifkhank Says:

    Hi,
    I woulf like to know what do you think of this:
    http://www.tcolincampbell.org/courses-resources/article/b12-breakthrough-missing-nutrient-found-in-plants/

  23. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Latifkhank,

    See here for my analysis of these studies: http://veganhealth.org/b12/plant#orgpro2

  24. crystal Says:

    lol, i am one such person who has used the exact quote you mentioned… thanks for the clarification between “source” and “improving absorption”

    this has proven to be an excellent resource for my research, thank you, again

    what about clams? my understanding is that clams are actually the all time best source of B12 and do not accumulate/absorb mercury/toxins… would love feedback from you on this topic

  25. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Crystal,

    It looks like clams are a pretty good source of vitamin B12:

    http://peacounter.com/foods_pub.php?ndb=15159

    I have not researched how much toxins they accumulate.

  26. Julie Says:

    What do u recommend as a quality brand for
    a Vitamin B12 supplement? Thank u for any
    suggestions.

  27. Joshua Says:

    Dear Jack,
    I’d like to know what your thoughts on these stuff are:
    http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/custom/2147788/0?print=true
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062981/
    Conclusion: When dealing with the mystery of why a much greater percentage of Korean centenarians did not suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, we found that commonly consumed traditional Korean soybean-fermented foods (such as Doenjang, Chungkukjang, and Ganjang), vegetable-fermented foods with fermented fish sauce (such as Kimchi), and seaweeds (such as laver) contained higher than expected levels of vitamin B12 . Surprisingly, almost a third of vitamin B12 intake in the centenarian diet was coming from the consumption of these traditional foods.

    So my questions is, if I to consume soybean fermented stuff can I stop worrying about B12 as a vegan? Thanks in advance

  28. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Julie,

    http://jacknorrisrd.com/what-b12-supplement-should-i-take/

    Scroll towards the bottom starting with Living Food Vitamin B12.

  29. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Joshua,

    In terms of the Kombucha listing at nutritiondata, that B12 was apparently entered by a user of the site and doesn’t come from the USDA.

    Here is my response about the Korean centenarian study:

    http://jacknorrisrd.com/b12-in-fermented-foods-korean-centenarians/

  30. Toni Says:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14969549?dopt=Abstract

  31. Michael Fons Says:

    Is Batabata-cha Tea the same as Kombucha Tea? Th Kombucha Tea I sometimes drink specifically says it has 20% of daily allowance of B12 on the nutrition facts:

    http://www.vivalaevolucion.com/vitamin-b12-kombucha/

  32. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Michael,

    I have no idea (and didn’t bother to Google it, sorry), but it’s a risk to assume it has any if it’s not fortified.

  33. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Toni,

    http://jacknorrisrd.com/lactobacillus-for-vitamin-b12/

  34. vinu Says:

    Jack,

    I would like your thoughts on “palmyra palm sugar”. It seems they have tested it (http://www.otrfarms.com/palm%20sugar.html)

    Also south Indian farmers took leftover cooked rice, soaked it in water overnight (fermentation) and ate it the next day. This rice along with the water is said to contain B12 and that was the reason for them not having a B12 deficiency.
    (http://palmsworldblog.com/home-featured/traditional-fermented-food-in-south-india)

    Some more links about the fermented Indian food – Idli
    http://www.hindu.com/mag/2007/12/09/stories/2007120950170600.htm
    http://manaliscravings.blogspot.in/2013/05/steaming-hot-idlis-great-source-of.html

    I am a vegan myself and I am considering these as my B12 sources.

  35. Jack Norris RD Says:

    vinu,

    It’s possible, but I definitely wouldn’t rely on them until they’ve been thoroughly tested.

    http://jacknorrisrd.com/fermented-foods-and-vitamin-b12/

  36. vinu Says:

    Thanks for the reply Jack.
    I got the point on fermented food now :)

    But what about ‘Palm sugar’?

  37. Jack Norris RD Says:

    vinu,

    I would bet that their lab report is wrong.

    My take on non-fermented foods is similar to fermented, which I write about on this page:

    http://veganhealth.org/b12/plant

    Summary

    In the published research, the only plant food that has been tested for improving B12 status in humans using the gold standard of lowering methylmalonic acid (MMA) levels was nori, which did not improve vitamin B12 status. Thus, the discussion about whether Western vegans can get B12 from plant foods could end here.

    Because so many plant foods have failed at improving B12 status and because this topic is of interest to the vegan community, the research on vitamin B12 in vegan foods is examined in detail below.

    A number of foods, arguably, warrant further attention. But unless these foods are shown consistently to correct B12 deficiency, vegans should not rely on them for vitamin B12.

    It cannot be emphasized enough that until a particular food, obtained from multiple regions, consistently improves vitamin B12 status (via lowering MMA levels), it should not be relied upon as a source of vitamin B12.

  38. lorolanz Says:

    Hi all, i am a vegan for over a year now, i just red about the B12 in aloe vera, so apearently it doesnt ocur in any plant based food.
    So, how do other animals like cows pigs or chicken produce B12 when it isn’t in their diet?
    do they produce it themselves or do they get it from insects? i can imagine cows eating worms and insects while eating grass? maybe thats how humans got adicted to B12? Cause i am pretty damn shure we started as pure planteaters.

  39. Jack Norris RD Says:

    lorolanz,

    B12 and Non-Human Animals
    http://veganhealth.org/b12/animal

    Can a Natural Diet Require Supplements?
    http://veganhealth.org/b12/natural

  40. lorolanz Says:

    That was very helpfull, thanks!
    it all makes sence now. Btw i had some terrible backpain like the pokerback suscribed in one of the post’s above, i took a b12 supplement and it went away.
    I might sound extremist but i am seriously thinking of growing worms from the vegwaste and adding them to my legumburgers one of the few things i still cook.
    Shure supplements can be a solution but nothing can beat the real thing.

  41. Michael Fons Says:

    By the way, I think that yogurt made from soaked Almonds (which contain cobalt) and Thai Coconuts water/meat with the probiotic, Lactobacillus reuteri (which is found in human breast milk) should produce b12. It is important that you use the L. Reuteri strain though, as it is the only one that I have come across that has been shown to produce b12. Look it up on google. Lifeway organic kefir is the only brand of yogurt I have found that uses L. Reuteri. It is also available in drops called biogaia probiotic drops. I’m not sure how you would go about testing the yogurt to see if it actually contained b12, but maybe Jack would know.

  42. lorolanz Says:

    I wil check out in the local health store if they got any of that, about the testing, wel lol its not difficult, if the B12 isnt working i wil notice it pretty quick, but i realy think long term creeters is the way to go, i have been checking out insects especialy crickets are easy to grow yourself and it is really a part of your soulfood, much better vitamin protein and calcium ratio then meat, i realy feel so much better since i become a vegan it is incredible, but i cant help but wonder how my body would react with that extra kick, it is cheap aswell i have been testing the food and its effect’s on my body ever sinds i became vegan, so i gues in about 4/5 months i wil have results. maybe i become as strong as a gorilla but i hope not as smart.

  43. Jack Norris RD Says:

    lorolanz,

    > Shure supplements can be a solution but nothing can beat the real thing.

    Actually, in the case of vitamin B12, supplements and fortified foods can beat the B12 that comes from animal products, at least in many people (especially older people). That’s because the B12 in animal products is attached to proteins and many people don’t have enough stomach acid to efficiently cleave the B12 from the protein in order to absorb it. That’s why the Institute of Medicine recommends that people over 50 get half of their B12 from fortified foods or supplements.

  44. Jack Norris RD Says:

    > I’m not sure how you would go about testing the yogurt to see if it actually contained b12, but maybe Jack would know.

    You’d have to find a lab that uses an accurate technique to measure vitamin B12 (many of the older methods couldn’t distinguish between active and inactive B12). Or you could eat no other source of B12 for a period of time and get your MMA levels tested before and after to see what it does.

  45. Chemist Says:

    hi Jack.. i read that in alo vera leaves these is a compound Acemannan it is a mucoploysaccharide.. it restores and boost the immune system i.e immunostimulant, Carrington Laboratories in the United States have separated the acemannan from Aloe vera. The product is sold as “Carrisyn” and is being used for treatment of AIDS and Feline leukemia?? kindly make discussion on this .. Is really this compound can b used for treatment of AIDS?? i dont think so !

  46. Jack Norris RD Says:

    Chemist,

    Treating disease with isolated elements of plants isn’t my area of expertise but I’d be pretty skeptical from the sound of it.

  47. Chemist Says:

    oh sorri for wrong question .. Any other having knowledge about this.. do tell me thanx

Leave a Reply

*