Response to: Vegan Vitamin B12 Deficiency is a Myth
On Saturday, August 21, NaturalNews.com published an article by Cindy Jones-Shoeman, Vegan Vitamin B12 Deficiency is a Myth.
The article starts out by saying that “nothing could be further from the truth” than the idea that vegans can suffer a B12 deficiency from their diet.
The article by Jones-Shoeman appears to be a rehashing of an old article (apparently from 2004 or earlier) by Vivian Vetrano, “Rethinking & Clarifying the Vitamin B12 Issue” which appears on the Rest of Your Life Retreat website: roylretreat.com/articles/b12.html.
Although Vetrano’s article is one of the most fanciful stories I’ve ever read about vitamin B12, it is rather detailed and I will only respond to the excerpts from the Jones-Shoeman article:
“According to Dr. Vivian V. Vetrano, vitamin B12 actually comes from coenzymes, which are already present in bacteria found on the human body (in and around the mouth, for example).”
Vitamin B12 does not come from co-enzymes, it is a co-enzyme. Bacteria do produce vitamin B12, but there is no proof that bacteria living in most people’s mouths produce active vitamin B12 or produce it in amounts large enough that it could prevent B12 deficiency. This is underlined by the fact that many vegans develop full-blown vitamin B12 deficiency, and in some cases permanent neurological damage, as can be seen here: VeganHealth.org/b12/cases. In addition to those cases in the scientific journals, I have known many people who have suffered from B12 deficiency and cured it by supplementing with cyanocobalamin (the most stable form of vitamin B12).
About a dozen studies have correlated low vitamin B12 levels in vegans with elevated homocysteine levels. Elevated homocysteine levels have been linked to early death, primarily from cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s Disease. More details on that are at VeganHealth.org/b12/hcy.
“In fact, vitamin B12 deficiency is often, according to Dr. Vetrano, a symptom of a larger problem; that is, it’s not caused from a poor diet but rather from deficiency diseases…”
While it is true that about 2% of the population has trouble absorbing vitamin B12, the vast majority of problems that have been seen in vegans have been caused by a low B12 intake, not from absorption problems.
“Vitamin B12 deficiency due to a vegan diet is simply a lie that finally needs to be put to rest.”
Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. The most common, serious damage that results from vitamin B12 deficiency is when a pregnant vegan who does not supplement has a baby who also does not get any B12 supplementation. Typically, around 6 months of age, the infant’s growth and neurological development ceases and then begins to regress. In many cases, such infants have sustained permanent brain damage.
Vitamin B12 deficiency among vegans is real and is not something to be flippant about. It is so important that a number of vegan health professionals and organizations have endorsed an open letter to the vegan community, What Every Vegan Should Know about Vitamin B12 (VeganHealth.org/articles/everyvegan). This letter has been signed by The Vegan Society (UK), Vegan Outreach, and many members of the International Vegetarian Union science group.