Wolffia globosa–mankai plant-based protein contains bioactive vitamin b12 and is well absorbed in humans

Ilan Sela, Anat Yaskolka Meir, Alexander Brandis, Rosa Krajmalnik-Brown, Lydia Zeibich, Debbie Chang, Blake Dirks, Gal Tsaban, Alon Kaplan, Ehud Rinott, Hila Zelicha, Shira Arinos, Uta Ceglarek, Berend Isermann, Miri Lapidot, Ralph Green, Iris Shai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Rare plants that contain corrinoid compounds mostly comprise cobalamin analogues, which may compete with cobalamin (vitamin B12 (B12 )) metabolism. We examined the presence of B12 in a cultivated strain of an aquatic plant: Wolffia globosa (Mankai), and predicted functional pathways using gut-bioreactor, and the effects of long-term Mankai consumption as a partial meat substitute, on serum B12 concentrations. Methods: We used microbiological assay, liquid-chromatography/electrospray-ionization-tandem-mass-spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), and anoxic bioreactors for the B12 experiments. We explored the effect of a green Mediterranean/low-meat diet, containing 100 g of frozen Mankai shake/day, on serum B12 levels during the 18-month DIRECT-PLUS (ID:NCT03020186) weight-loss trial, compared with control and Mediterranean diet groups. Results: The B12 content of Mankai was consistent at different seasons (p = 0.76). Several cobalamin congeners (Hydroxocobalamin(OH-B12 ); 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin(Ado-B12 ); methylcobalamin(Me-B12 ); cyanocobalamin(CN-B12 )) were identified in Mankai extracts, whereas no pseudo B12 was detected. A higher abundance of 16S-rRNA gene amplicon sequences associated with a genome containing a KEGG ortholog involved in microbial B12 metabolism were observed, compared with control bioreactors that lacked Mankai. Following the DIRECT-PLUS intervention (n = 294 participants; retention-rate = 89%; baseline B12 = 420.5 ± 187.8 pg/mL), serum B12 increased by 5.2% in control, 9.9% in Mediterranean, and 15.4% in Mankai-containing green Mediterranean/low-meat diets (p = 0.025 between extreme groups). Conclusions: Mankai plant contains bioactive B12 compounds and could serve as a B12 plant-based food source.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number3067
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number10
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020


  • Flexitarians
  • Plant-based nutrition
  • Sustainability
  • Vitamin B
  • Weight loss
  • Wolffia globosa

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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