Q. Can being a vegan cause anemia with high vitamin B12 level?

Answered by
Dr. Parth R Goswami
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.
This is a premium question & answer published on Dec 25, 2018

Hi doctor,

I have been a vegetarian for over two years, and a vegan for about three months. I had my bloodwork done this past week, and the numbers were confusing. I have had anemia in the past, and it was thought to be due to my ulcer, which I take over the counter medicine (which I was told now to make absorption difficult). I stopped being anemic about four years ago, but these numbers look like I am there again. But my B12, which is what I was actually most concerned about has been having symptoms of deficiencies, but my number was 1353, way above the highest end of the spectrum. So I am all over the place, and my regular doctor is out on medical leave.

Thought I should have some information before I talk to a stranger. He has already recommended stopping being vegan. I reminded him I also had gastric bypass surgery 15 years ago, so that combined with an ulcer, anti-ulcer medicines, vegan and surgery seem to be culprits, but I need direction. Oh, since becoming vegetarian, then vegan, I have gained almost 50 lbs, not good. I do not see an upload option, so I will just write some of the numbers. B12 1253, folate 33.1. iron and TIBC 36 and 453, transferrin saturation 8 %, hematocrit 34, hemoglobin 10.3, ferritin 5 ng.



Welcome to

I have reviewed your query and below is my advice. The peptic ulcer can lead to minor bleeding in the intestinal tract and so anemia can develop due to it. For ulcer healing, Rabeprazole like antacid can be prescribed for 2 to 4 weeks. Stool routine micro examination and occult blood test are done to rule out parasitic infestation and minor bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract. Your CBC and iron profile are suggestive towards iron deficiency for which Orofer XT like Ferrous ascorbate containing medication can be prescribed for two to three months.

For high B12 level, you can investigate further with SGOT, SGPT, urea, creatinine estimation to rule out liver and kidney disease. In these diseases, excretion of B12 is affected and so level can be high. The other cause for high B12 is a myeloproliferative neoplasm. For that, you can investigate with full CBC and peripheral smear examination report to check if any abnormal cells are present or not. In this portal, you can always upload report while asking the question. Hope this will help you while you consult the doctor. I would be happy to help you further whenever needed. Best regards.

Thank you doctor,

I appreciate your thoughtful response. As for the ulcer, I think I mentioned I had been taking Omeprazole as the doctor found a tear but has since been checked and shown to be repaired. I am still taking that medicine which I was told may limit the absorption of the minerals and vitamins I need. I have done some reading up on the long-term effects of gastric bypass surgery which I had 15 years ago, and often anemia is a result which would make sense. So I think my deficient anemia is probably accurate. I did just have a fecal test and a colonoscopy and both were okay.

The only thing it really has me puzzled is the B12 at 1353. They just do not seem to be a simple and non-serious cause of this. I read what you said and I do not have most of the symptoms of MBN. None really except being tired and having a high level of B12 in the system. Everything I read was pretty serious. How much does my veganism have to possibly do with this series of bad news? Again, I really appreciate your help. You were very thorough and you gave me a lot of places to look. So I appreciate it very much.



Welcome back to

Sorry for late reply. The gastric bypass surgery can affect iron absorption mainly and so iron deficiency anemia can be developed due to such surgery. So your case fits in iron deficiency anemia due to surgery. You are a strict vegetarian for the past two years. So it can lead to B12 deficiency mainly. Green leafy vegetables, legumen, jaggery, etc., although can provide iron. So being vegetarian might be the cause for iron deficiency.

Surprisingly your B12 level is high that might be due to supplement intake. If you had not used any supplements then rule out liver and kidney disease through investigation suggested in the previous answer. B12 is water soluble vitamin and so can be excreted through the kidney. So if there is no specific cause identified then repeat B12 after a few days. Omeprazole usually is prescribed for 4 to 8 weeks for bleeding peptic ulcer. It should not be used for such a long time continuously.

Few studies suggest that Omeprazole can affect iron absorption. To correct your iron deficiency, an iron supplement containing Ferrous ascorbate can be prescribed and it should be taken with orange juice or Vitamin C supplement to increase iron absorption.

The Probable causes:

IDA (iron deficiency anemia).

Investigations to be done:

Serum urea, creatinine estimation, SGPT, SGOT, peripheral smear examination report.

Probable diagnosis:


Treatment plan:

Iron supplement containing Ferrous ascorbate.

Preventive measures:

Check the iron profile every six months.

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