Send to

Choose Destination
Am J Clin Nutr. 2018 Sep 1;108(3):525-531. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy104.

Vitamin B-12 content in breast milk of vegan, vegetarian, and nonvegetarian lactating women in the United States.

Author information

Departments of Nutrition Science.
Biostatistics, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service, Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Davis, CA.
Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis, CA.
Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina Greensboro, Greensboro, NC.



The nutritional profile of human milk varies significantly between women, and the impact of maternal diet on these variations is not well understood.


We analyzed breast-milk vitamin B-12 concentration and vitamin B-12 supplement use pattern among women who adhered to different dietary patterns: vegan, vegetarian, and nonvegetarian.


A total of 74 milk samples, 29 from vegan, 19 from vegetarian, and 26 from nonvegetarian breastfeeding mothers, were analyzed.


The prevalences of low vitamin B-12 (<310 pmol/L) were 19.2% for vegans, 18.2% for vegetarians, and 15.4% for nonvegetarians, which was not significant by diet group (P = 1.00). The median (quartile 1, quartile 3) vitamin B-12 values were 558 pmol/L (331, 759 pmol/L) for vegans, 509 pmol/L (368, 765 pmol/L) for vegetarians, and 444 pmol/L (355, 777 pmol/L) for nonvegetarians (P = 0.890). The use of individual vitamin B-12 supplements was higher in vegans (46.2%) than in vegetarians (27.3%) and nonvegetarians (3.9%) (P = 0.001). In linear regression analysis, the use of individual vitamin B-12 supplements was a significant positive predictor of milk vitamin B-12 concentration (β ± SE: 172.9 ± 75.2; standardized β = 0.263; P = 0.024; R2 = 0.069), the use of a multivitamin had a significant negative relation with milk vitamin B-12 concentrations (β ± SE -222.0 ± 98.7; standardized β = -0.258; P = 0.028, R2 = 0.067;), whereas the use of a B-complex vitamin and prenatal vitamin were not predictive of vitamin B-12 milk concentration (P > 0.05).


Almost 20% of our study participants were classified as having low breast-milk vitamin B-12 concentrations (<310 pmol/L), independent of maternal diet pattern. Approximately 85% of participants categorized as having low vitamin B-12 were taking vitamin B-12 supplements at doses in excess of the Recommended Dietary Allowance, which suggests that more research is needed to determine breast-milk adequacy values.


Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems
Loading ...
Support Center