Comments on Doug Graham’s B12 Statements
You might remember my August 23rd post about an article on NaturalNews.com, Response to: Vegan Vitamin B12 Deficiency is a Myth. I have been asked to respond to another article about B12 on NaturalNews.com, Dr. Doug Graham Part III: The Medical Model, the Hygienic Model and Supplements.
Some background on Dr. Doug Graham: He is a chiropractor who promotes a raw food diet that comprises of 80% carbohydrate, 10% fat, and 10% protein.
If you read the article, you might find that Dr. Graham has an unusual take on preventative medicine. He mocks the medical establishment by saying, “And so before you have B12 deficiency, let’s take those B12 supplements, prophylactically. Before you have a problem with too little salt in your diet, you better supplement with salt. Before you have high blood pressure symptoms, let’s treat you for high blood pressure now.”
People take salt supplements?
Yes, you should take B12 before you have (symptoms of) deficiency because taking B12 does no harm, while waiting until you have a deficiency of B12 could do long-term, permanent harm, possibly setting you up for a stroke or dementia (if you are mildly deficient for many years).
Later in the article, Dr. Graham is asked what someone should do if they develop B12 deficiency. He basically says that a B12 deficiency is not from a lack of dietary B12, but from people not absorbing B12. He claims that if you fast on nothing but water, your body will then be able to absorb B12. He says he has experienced people whose B12 levels return to normal three to four weeks after a fast (it’s not clear if the fast is three to four weeks, or some other length).
But where would the body get the B12 to absorb if you are not getting any in your diet?
Graham: “B12 is everywhere. It’s in the air. It’s in the mucus membranes of your nose. Every time you inhale, you’re breathing in B12; every time you swallow your own saliva, you’re swallowing B12.”
Why then, when someone has B12 deficiency, do their B12 levels increase and their deficiency symptoms go away, upon taking B12? If they cannot absorb it from swallowing their saliva or breathing, why can they absorb it when it comes in supplemental form?
One answer would be because there is so little in the air and saliva that the absorption mechanism has to be much more efficient. Perhaps. But a more elegant answer is because there is no B12 in the air or in saliva, whereas there actually is B12 in a supplement.
The idea that B12 is floating around in the air is pretty bizarre. But, I cannot say I have ever read a study where someone tested a batch of air for B12. Since B12 would settle to the ground due to its molecular weight being heavier than air, everything exposed to air should have some B12 in it, but many products tested for B12 show none. I think we can dismiss the B12-in-air theory.
What about saliva? It is possible that some people have B12-producing bacteria in their saliva. I have never seen saliva tested for vitamin B12, but it is a safe bet most people’s would have little if any. One way we can infer this is because when a person becomes vegan (without supplemental B12 or fortified foods), normally, their B12 levels start to drop, and continue to do so until they get a source of vitamin B12.
Graham: “[B12 deficiency] has been shown in every diet; there is a certain percentage of people who go B12 deficient. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, raw fooder, or Standard American Diet, that percentage is the same.”
If you look at Table 1 in the chapter Vegan Adults of my article Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It, you will see that in the EPIC-Oxford study, 1 out of 250 omnivores had B12 deficiency, while 150 out of 250 vegans had B12 deficiency. You do the math.
Graham: “B12 deficiency was first discovered in carnivorous or what you would call “people who would eat anything” – kind of a diet. That’s where B12 was first discovered and treated.”
Yes, it is estimated that 2% of all people cannot absorb B12 in the normal way and that might account for the one omnivore in EPIC-Oxford who had B12 deficiency.
Graham: “But we do have to look at the reality that most grain products, especially those that are called “enriched grain products,” cereal, breads, and pasta, and whatnots, are typically enriched with B12.”
Most grain products are not enriched with vitamin B12. If you go to the grains section of MyPyramid.gov (and no doubt many other sources), it says “Most refined grains are enriched. This means certain B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folic acid) and iron are added back after processing.” No vitamin B12. I also checked the packaging on three different brands of pasta I have here at the house and none has B12 added; I’ve never seen one that does.
Graham: “What we call the normal level of B12 is based on testing people who are supplementing with B12 at every meal. This is an abnormally high level of B12 compared to the normal population or compared to a population which isn’t supplementing.”
B12 deficiency is not defined as below the average level of B12 in the population, but rather as the level below which red blood cells stop forming properly.
Back to the idea that Graham has experienced people who cured their B12 deficiency through fasting. If a doctor I respected came to me and said that he had fasted people with B12 deficiency and their levels returned to normal even though they had not supplemented or eaten B12-containing foods, my interest would be piqued. But Dr. Graham does not have a good track record when it comes to vitamin B12 claims and so I don’t see any reason to take his claim about fasting seriously. Maybe the people fasting didn’t completely trust such methods and took vitamin B12. Who knows?
In summary, I would suggest that people not risk the dangers of long-term, mild vitamin B12 deficiency based on believing ideas that might sound good, but have little to no evidence to support them.