A B12 deficiency could be playing a major role in the development of cancer. If this new finding is right, it means vegetarians especially need to supplement with the vitamin to lower their cancer risk.
The vitamin is naturally synthesized from bacteria, but is not present in plants, say researchers from the University of Kent. This means that millions of people around the world, including vegetarians, are at greater risk of B12 deficiency, which could be increasing their chances of getting cancer.
B12 deficiency has already been associated with anaemia, heart disease and dementia.
The researchers say the vitamin plays a vital role in helping form red blood cells and maintaining the nervous system. Using techniques from a new discipline called 'synthetic biology', the researchers have been able to break down the stages of how the vitamin is created from bacteria.
Their discoveries could open the door to new cancer therapies.
Nat Chem Biol, 2012; 8: 933-40