Monday, 9 January 2012

Vegans and B12

Healthy sure... but is it enough? Read on for the truth...
Veganism can be healthy
I've said in other posts that a vegan lifestyle can be healthy - if supplemented with B12. (As well as any other missing nutrients - tell your doctor if you're vegan and get a full panel done every 3 to 6 months to determine any nutrient deficiencies.)

I still believe that continues to be true, although it should be mentioned that vegans do have a higher incidence of colo-rectal cancer than non-vegans.  (Sources: here, also search Seventh-Day Adventist vs. Mormon cancer rates - several studies have been done - although Seventh-Day Adventists and Mormons have very similar lifestyles abstaining from tobacco, alcohol, caffeine, etc., the meat-eating Mormons have 22% lower overall cancer rates and 34% lower cancer rates than the vegan Adventists.)

BUT ... and here's the important thing - It is nearly impossible for a vegan to get adequate B12 in their diet.

B12 deficiency is a serious medical condition
I won't go into all the details here.  First, it should be mentioned that meat-eaters can also be B12 deficient.  There are several reasons for this.

A meat-eater could have a lack of intrinsic factor, we could be eating the wrong things (beef liver and clams/mussels are the best sources of B12, and aren't often eaten by most meat-eaters) or not enough of the right things.  There are an endless variety of ways meat-eaters can be deficient.

However one thing is clear:  According to research conduction by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vegans have roughly double the rate of B12 deficiency (as a group) as non-vegans.

Instead of going into all the health issues and complications, I'll leave that for the excellent article by Chris Kresser - please check it out here.

But Joe-Vegan on his blog states he doesn't have a B12 deficiency!
That may well be true.  Many vegans show no B12 deficiencies even after a year or more of veganism.  That doesn't mean it's not going to happen.

We have stores of B12 (in our liver), like we do many other things in our body.  B12 stores are lost, on-average, at a rate of roughly 1/10th of one percent per day.  That means if we had absolutely no intake of B12 at all, it would still take nearly 3 years to become completely deficient.  If we get some (but not enough) it could conceivably take a full decade to become B12 deficient.

Pregnant or nursing mothers should be supplementing B12 even if they don't think they're deficient yet.  The reason?  Their own B12 stores are NOT passed onto their baby.  They must have dietary B12 intake in order to provide their baby with B12 nutrients.

Vegans - if you don't want to believe me (because most of you, understandably, don't want to take the word of a 'meat-eater' - and I'm cool with that) please believe Dr. McDougall (McDougall is a well-known vegan author).  He quite clearly states the need for B12 supplementation when following a vegan diet.  He even has a disclaimer in all his books and videos about the need for B12.
"If you follow the McDougall Diet for more than 3 years, or if you are pregnant or nursing, then take a minimum of 5 micrograms of supplemental vitamin B12 each day."
The American Dietetic Association (who vegans claim "endorses a vegan diet!" - which isn't necessarily true. They say it "can" be healthy - but give about a dozen pages on 'how') states very clearly in all their modern information: 
"Strict vegetarians or vegans, however, may need to supplement their diet by choosing a fortified breakfast cereal or by taking a vitamin B12 (cobalamin) supplement of no more than 100 percent of the Daily Value"
Most of those "fortified" breakfast cereals are processed/refined carbohydrate though, so supplementing B12 with something that's been linked to obesity, metabolic-syndrome and Type II diabetes isn't necessarily the best idea, even if you use almond or soy milk.  A supplement would be best.

So the evidence is pretty clear.  B12 supplementation needs to be done if you're a vegan.

1 comment:

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