Lactobacillus for Vitamin B12?

I just added a section on Lactobacillus and a section on Japanese fermented black tea to B12 in Vegan Foods. I have reproduced them below.

Lactobacillus species

Lactobacillus is a genus of bacteria found in some people’s digestive tracts and in most probiotic supplements. There is evidence that some species produce vitamin B12.

A 2003 study of Lactobacillus reuteri CRL1098 determined that it produces vitamin B12 and that this B12 was equivalent to cyanocobalamin (1).

In a 2006 study from Egypt, school children were fed yogurt fermented only with Lactobaccillus acidophilus, 2 cups daily with 5 X 109 colony-forming units (2). After 42 days, their B12 status was compared to children who were fed a commercially prepared yogurt. Urinary MMA levels went from 3.49 to 2.09 mmol/mol of creatinine in the experimental group (P = .02) versus no change in the commercial yogurt group.

In a 2000 study of vegan raw foodists, 4 vegans were fed a probiotic supplement containing Lactobacillus acidolphilus and other Lactobacillus species (3). After 3 months, the urinary MMA levels of 3 of the 4 subjects had decreased, though not to normal levels. More details of this study are on the page, Raw Foodist Vegans.

While Lactobacillus shows some promise, it is too soon to rely on it for keeping your vitamin B12 status at healthy levels.

Japanese fermented black tea (Batabata-cha)

A 2004 study by the Watanabe group found that fermented black tea (Batabata-cha) contained vitamin B12 analogues that, when fed to rats, improved their vitamin B12 status (4). It would be interesting to see if this tea could consistently improve B12 status in humans.


I’m afraid I’m going to have to eat some humble pie here, as I had written a company, Tonix, telling them that they should not be claiming their coconut water kefir has vitamin B12 in it based on the fact that they have Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria in it. And looking more closely at their claims, they don’t claim their product has vitamin B12 in it, they only claim that their product contains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria which can produce vitamin B12. So, I really messed up on that one. Sorry, Tonix! Not that they cared – they never wrote me back.

Here is that post: Coconut Water Kefir – Latest Unproven Source of Vitamin B12


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1. Taranto MP, Vera JL, Hugenholtz J, De Valdez GF, Sesma F. Lactobacillus reuteri CRL1098 produces cobalamin. J Bacteriol. 2003 Sep;185(18):5643-7. | link

2. Mohammad MA, Molloy A, Scott J, Hussein L. Plasma cobalamin and folate and their metabolic markers methylmalonic acid and total homocysteine among Egyptian children before and after nutritional supplementation with the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus acidophilus in yoghurt matrix. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2006 Nov-Dec;57(7-8):470-80. | link

3. Donaldson MS. Metabolic vitamin B12 status on a mostly raw vegan diet with follow-up using tablets, nutritional yeast, or probiotic supplements. Ann Nutr Metab. 2000;44(5-6):229-34. | link

4. Kittaka-Katsura H, Ebara S, Watanabe F, Nakano Y. Characterization of corrinoid compounds from a Japanese black tea (Batabata-cha) fermented by bacteria. J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Feb 25;52(4):909-11. | link

5 Responses to “Lactobacillus for Vitamin B12?”

  1. Andreas Says:

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    Lactobacillus reuteri probiotic would have to be taken continuously to produce Vitamin B12 because the probiotic most likely contained higher quantities of the bacteria that is normally not found in our intestines. Its a manipulated study to make us dependent on a product, bacteria.

    Where in the fermented black tea study do they indicate that its vitamin B12 “analogues”?

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:


    The dictionary definition of “analogue” is “a compound with a molecular structure closely similar to that of another.” I use the term “vitamin B12 analogues” to refer to any molecules with a similar structure to vitamin B12 including the four known active-in-human forms (methy-, adenosyl-, cyano-, hydroxo-). I realize that people tend to think of “B12 analogue” to mean “inactive B12 analogue” but I don’t use it that way.

  3. Dan Says:

    Jack, thanks for this new post. So we can’t rely on any of these ‘functional’ foods for providing sufficient B12 to people who don’t eat meat. That would be my take-away from this. Until a trial proves otherwise, it’s back to tablets or specifically fortified foods. (I may be using the term ‘functional food’ in the wrong sense, but hope you get my meaning – I was referring to the tea, kefir and probiotics)

  4. Jack Norris RD Says:


  5. Andreas Says:


    B12 analogues are biologically inactive and the study indicates that B12 levels rose. Technically, those B12 molecules aren’t analogues.

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