B12 & Iron Deficiency in an Italian Vegan Infant

Sadly, a report was published today of a vegan mother in Italy whose infant developed B12 deficiency and the typical neurological issues that go along with it.

The mother had taken a multivitamin with 2.5 µg of B12 during her 2nd and 3rd trimester. The baby had been born small (3rd percentile for weight). He was then exclusively breast fed and the mother ceased the multivitamin.

The infant developed both B12 and iron deficiency by five months. Seven months of treatment with B12 and iron resulted in drastic improvement in neurological symptoms, but not a full recovery at that time.

The case underscores the need for exclusively nursing mothers to ensure they have a reliable source of vitamin B12 so that their breast milk has adequate amounts. A baby should be born with iron stores to last 6 months, but this boy was not. Not much information was given about any attempts to monitor the mother’s iron levels during pregnancy or the baby’s after birth ― apparently not much was done.

I’m hoping for some better vegan health news as the week progresses…


Guez S, Chiarelli G, Menni F, Salera S, Principi N, Esposito S. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency in an exclusively breastfed 5-month-old Italian infant born to a mother receiving multivitamin supplementation during pregnancy. BMC Pediatr. 201 Jun 24;12(1):85. | link

7 Responses to “B12 & Iron Deficiency in an Italian Vegan Infant”

  1. Netik Says:

    This is really a sad news.

    Any idea on how much B12 did the mother consume through her multivitamin?
    It would also be interesting to know what kind of b12 was in there. I can still find spirulina supplements with “B12” written on the box…

  2. Jack Norris RD Says:

    2.5 µg.

  3. Idan Says:

    Hi Jack – I wanted to know what you think about this claim on this web site :

    “Methylation is a CRITICAL function of a healthy body, but all too often we ‘use up’ the necessary raw materials because of our nearly constant exposure to environmental pollutants. Methylcobalamin is actually able to replenish the ‘methyl’ portion that is missing in methylation, while the other forms of vitamin B12 REQUIRE a methyl donor in order to be converted into a biologically active form in the blood. Therefore, people who already HAVE methylation detoxification problems, such as children with autism, can actually be made WORSE if other forms of vitamin B12 are administered”

    Is it true and does it actually make the methyl form of b12 preferable in any way ?

    And Another B12 question
    this peered-reviewed artical has a rather strange and unclear claim :
    “Indeed, it has been reported that 83% of vitamin
    B12 in edible cyanobacteria used as a vitamin B12 commercial
    supplement was pseudovitamin B12 (14 ) , a p oo rl y a bs or be d
    inactive corrinoid compound in the mammalian intestine due to
    its low binding affinity to intrinsic factor (IF) (15 ). In this regard,
    bacterial vitamin B12 supplementation may be ineffective in
    preventing vitamin B12 deficiency, especially among vegans and
    elderly subjects.”

    So the question about the possibility of analogs in the b12 supplement – Are you aware of such a problem and is there any regulation or monitoring on behalf of the supplement industry or companies.

  4. Jack Norris RD Says:


    > but all too often we ‘use up’ the necessary raw materials because of our nearly constant exposure to environmental pollutants.

    I’ve never heard of this. Did you download the studies she cited to see if there was any evidence for it? I downloaded the first one, but it was just a letter to the editor and I’m not sure when I’d have time to look at the rest, so if you have, I’d rather you told me. 🙂

    > So the question about the possibility of analogs in the b12 supplement –

    By “b12 supplement” the authors are referring to cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. They do not mean that typical b12 supplements contain pseudovitamin B12.

  5. Idan Says:

    Forgot to give a link to the Article :


  6. Idan Says:

    Thanks i misread it i suppose .

    I didn’t see any evidence in the links she cited , That’s why i was curious to ask you if you know any basis for this .

  7. Jack Norris RD Says:


    > if you know any basis for this.

    I don’t and I’m very skeptical about it.

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