If you are a hardcore vegetarian but deficient in vitamin B12, then, there is good news for you as scientists have discovered ways to increase the levels of vitamin B12 in an ayurveda herb used in making soups and sandwiches.
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential dietary component found especially in meat, fish and milk products.
However, plants do not make this nutrient, making vegetarians prone to vitamin B12 deficiency. Researchers, led by Martin Warren from University of Kent, found that the common garden cress, also known as pepper grass, can absorb cobalamin depending upon the amount present in the growth medium.
They also confirmed that the nutrient gets stored in the leaves of the plant.
Garden cress, known as ‘chandrashoor’ in India, is considered as an ayurveda herb. It is genetically related to mustard and is used in making soups, sandwiches and salads because of its tangy flavour.
In the study, published in the journal Cell Chemical Biology, the team made a type of Vitamin B12 that emits fluorescent light when activated by a laser.
This fluorescence was then fed to the garden cress plants which was being cultivated by the students.
The researchers found that the vitamin B12 accumulated in a specialised part of the leaf cell called a vacuole, providing definitive evidence that some plants can absorb and transport cobalamin.
“The observation that certain plants are able to absorb vitamin B12 is important as they could help overcome dietary limitations in countries like India, with a high proportion of vegetarians. It may also be a way to address the global challenge of providing a nutrient-complete vegetarian diet,” the researchers say.
According to the researchers, the study also has implications for combating some parasitic infections.