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Improving vegetarian diets with vitamin B12
June 3, 2018, 11:49 am
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Vitamin content of vegetarian and vegan diets could be significantly improved through a new discovery made by scientists at the University of Kent in the UK

Vitamin B12 (known as cobalamin) is an essential dietary component but vegetarians are more prone to B12 deficiency as plants neither make nor require this nutrient. Scientists have now shown that the common garden cress can indeed take up cobalamin, depending upon the amount present in the growth medium. The study specifically traced the cobalamin to the leaf in the garden cress.

The observation that certain plants are able to absorb B12 is important as such nutrient-enriched plants could help overcome dietary limitations in countries s that have a high proportion of vegetarians and may be significant as a way to address the global challenge of providing a nutrient-complete vegetarian diet. This discovery could be a valuable development as the world becomes increasingly meat-free due to population expansion.

The Kent scientists worked with biology teachers and year 11 and 12 pupils to investigate the detection and measurement of B12 in garden cress. The pupils grew garden cress containing increasing concentrations of vitamin B12. After seven days growth, the leaves from the seedlings were removed, washed and analyzed.

The seedlings were found to absorb cobalamin from the growth medium and to store it in their leaves. To confirm this initial observation, the scientists at Kent then made a type of vitamin B12 that emits fluorescent light when activated by a laser. This fluorescent B12 was fed to the plants and it was found to accumulate within a specialized part of the leaf cell called a vacuole, providing definitive evidence that some plants can absorb and transport cobalamin.

 

 

 

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