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400px-Cobalamin.svg[1]I first came across the Framingham Offspring Study several years ago when I was doing some research on the vitamin B12 status of people of various dietary persuasions. I found the results of this study to be fascinating, and apparently I am not the only one who feels this way, given that I have seen this study mentioned in numerous YouTube videos, in various health blogs, and in class by many of my students. Why is this study in particular so popular?

The answer likely involves many reasons. Here a couple of my thoughts:

  1. This study talks about the vitamin B12 status of the study participants. There is little doubt that vitamin B12 is a hot topic in the health community and most people I have spoken with over the years have expressed interest in learning about B12. In fact, it is one of the more popular questions that Rick and I are asked.
  2. The study participants were omnivores. People who eat a plant-based diet or vegan diet are told to be aware of their B12 status, but what about omnivores? Do they need to be aware of this too?

The Framingham Offspring Study (FOS) helps answer this question. The study examined the B12 status of 2,999 omnivores of ages ranging from 26 – 83, along with supplemental and food sources of B12, such as fortified cereal, dairy products, and various types of meat. Here is a brief summary of the data from this study:

  • 39% of study participants were found to have blood levels of vitamin B12 in the “low normal” to deficient range (<258 pmol/L or 350 pg/ml) and the youngest members of the group (26 – 49 years) had similar B12 status to the 65 years and older group.
  • Study participants who consumed supplements and/or cereal fortified with B12 had the highest blood levels of B12, followed by dairy products, and then meat.
  • Study participants who got most or all of their B12 from meat sources, had the lowest blood B12 levels.
  • The researchers commented that vitamin B12 supplements and fortified foods are likely to be more reliable sources of B12 than non-fortified foods, and that the use of supplements in particular was found to be protective against low vitamin B12 levels in this and previous studies.
  • Because of these outcomes, the researchers suggest that the potential for B12 deficiency in the general adult population be examined.

I was not completely surprised to see that this study calls to question the reliability of meat as an adequate source of B12, as we have consulted with several people in the past few years that have been low in B12 despite eating an omnivorous diet. Hmmm…..

I would encourage you to read this study, and see for yourself what the data indicates. I have provided here a brief summary of what I learned from this study, but the actual full-text article gives much more specific information on the observations of the researchers.

Granted, this is only one study and some case histories, but nonetheless I personally feel that it is important for everyone to consider their B12 status regardless of whether or not they are a vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, etc. As this study indicates, there are many factors to consider in this B12 puzzle. Here is a link to the full text article of the Framingham Offspring Study.


Tucker KL, Rich S, Rosenberg I, Jacques P, Dallal G, Wilson PW, Selhub J. Plasma vitamin B-12 concentrations relate to intake source in the Framingham Offspring study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Feb;71(2):514-22.

Interested in taking your vitamin B12 and nutrition knowledge to the next level? We cover this topic and so much more in our online Mastering Raw Food Nutrition and Educator Course. For more class details, click here.

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