Science-based nutrition, Uncategorized

B-12 deficiency

With all the controversy surrounding the nutritional value of a vegan diet, labeling some downside or another by fellow vegans as a “myth” propagated by opponents of veganism has become commonplace. And although I often agree–myths about the drawbacks of veganism abound, it’s minimally unwise, if not dangerous to strike down as a myth a deficit that has been discovered with staggering scientific consistency: B-12 deficiency.

I, for one, wish it were a myth. After scrutinizing the scientific literature, however, I am sad to say: it doesn’t seem to be. We vegans are likely to have significantly lower intake of vitamin B-12– a risk already noted by the vegan society here: http://www.vegansociety.com/lifestyle/nutrition/b12.aspx, and again by the vegetarian resource group here: http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/b12.php.

The Office of Dietary Supplements at the NIH (National Institutes of Health) goes a step further and provides guidelines for recommended daily intake, as well as a table illustrating what any vegan hates to see: B-12 is found in animal products.

Be wise-these sources are very explicit about the importance of sufficient B-12 intake. Get it from supplements to secure a wholesome diet.

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4 thoughts on “B-12 deficiency

  1. Chris Shoebridge says:

    I’m regularly disappointed by the number of my fellow vegans who reject the B12-deficiency risk as a myth. While they are right that B12 is produced by bacteria, not animals, they often fail to note that these bacteria are not present in plant foods.

    Sadly, the nature of the deficiency is such that one can be causing irreparable nerve damage while believing one is healthy. By the time the effects of the deficiency manifest in a noticeable way, it is too late.

    I’ve spent quite a bit of time in various vegan forums advocating the consumption of B12 supplements – but opposition is often fervent. It’s not hard to take a supplement, and the consequences are not worth the risk. We want healthy vegans after all!

    • Chris, my thoughts exactly. I think it doesn’t serve well for veganism in general if we deny ourselves knowledge or action conducive to good health. Given the complexities of B 12 diversity and metabolic processing, the least we can do is be aware of the costs at steak if we deny ourselves proper supplementation. I think somehow this topic becomes personalized, and one shortcoming is generalized to the integrity of an entire lifestyle. This, in my mind, has to do with the “we vs them” logic of treating one diet or another is the absolute best in nutrition-a moral stance at its core, really. It’s important that when it comes to health, reason reigns over emotion. One thing that could do that, if it lands well on the audience, is to provide food for thought. That’s what I try to do.

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