Archive for the ‘Anemia’ Category

TVA’s Veg Recidivism Survey

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

In December, I blogged about the Humane Research Council’s report on vegetarian recidivism (Vegetarian Recidivism Survey, Dec 15 2014).

Another report has been released on vegetarian recidivism, this time from the Toronto Vegetarian Association. You can download the 10-page report from their post, TVA Conducts First Study of Lapsed Vegetarians in Canada.

Their study surveyed 1,112 people of which 113 were lapsed vegetarians.

Getting enough nutrients was listed at the most common challenge for lapsed vegetarians with 83% listing it as a challenge (as compared to 44% of current vegetarians). Eating out was listed as the second most common challenge, with 75% of lapsed and 65% of current vegetarians considering it a challenge.

It would be interesting to know in what way they believed getting enough nutrients was a challenge–was this theoretical or did they feel bad and suspect they weren’t obtaining enough nutrients?

The report quotes a couple of the lapsed vegetarians regarding nutrition. One person said:

“I grew tired of spending so much time on meal planning to make sure I was getting the proper amount of essential amino acids, etc.”

That makes me wonder what sort of information vegetarians are getting. While vegetarians should include high-lysine foods each day, there are so many–all legumes as well as quinoa and seitan–that it really takes little planning. Hopefully they weren’t carrying around a 1971 copy of Diet for a Small Planet, adding up all the essential amino acids from every meal.

Another respondent said:

“My iron levels were dangerously low and I needed to reintroduce meat sources of iron into my diet; I began having extreme meat cravings near the end of my vegetarianism and I believe that was my body telling me I needed the iron (which I found out later due to blood tests).”

This is disconcerting, but it also reinforces a view that I’ve been cultivating for some time–that cravings for meat might be due to iron deficiency. I would like to see research done on whether this is the case and, more importantly, how easily iron deficiency anemia can be cured while vegan by using the methods I suggest of adding vitamin C to meals and avoiding coffee and tea at meal times (more info).

I have been discussing the possibilities of this sort of research with a medical doctor at a large university and perhaps something will come of it.


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Iron Supplements Improve Unexplained Fatigue in Premenopausal Women

Saturday, June 15th, 2013

A reader (thanks, Dan!) pointed out a follow-up study to one I had included in VeganHealth’s article Iron, about iron supplementation in women with unexplained fatigue who have low iron stores but do not technically have anemia. I updated the article:

“Two studies from Switzerland have shown that iron supplementation can reduce fatigue in premenopausal women (1, 2) whose hemoglobin levels are above 120 g/l (and thus not diagnosed with anemia). The most recent, from 2012 (2), was a double-blinded, randomized controlled trial in which 80 mg of ferrous sulfate (an iron supplement) per day for 12 weeks increased hemoglobin in women who had average serum ferritin levels of 22.5 µg/l. This increase in hemoglobin was matched with a 50% reduction in symptoms of fatigue (compared to only 19% for placebo). Improvements in hemoglobin were seen after 6 weeks.”

This study got me thinking… I remember back around 2001 when I was doing my dietetic internship at Georgia State. I was able to spend some time working at a couple of alternative health clinics that specialized in helping people with chronic fatigue. At that time, they were putting pretty much everyone on a low carb diet, which translated to more meat. I actually don’t know if many people made any sort of recovery from the fatigue – my memory is that one person I counseled had made a significant recovery while another hadn’t made any improvement, but I have no idea what the success rates were for the clinics. To the extent that a low carb diet helped, I wonder if it was merely due to the women getting more heme iron and curing an undetected deficiency.

Improving iron status is worth considering for anyone with fatigue whose hemoglobin is on the lower end of normal and who has a serum ferritin less than 50 µg/l.

Iron does seem to be a possible culprit in three of higher profile cases of young women becoming ex-vegan that come to mind, and perhaps it’s something to which our movement needs to be paying more attention.

While the studies above used iron supplements to increase iron status, don’t forget that adding a significant amount of vitamin C to meals has been shown to be better for increasing iron absorption than increasing iron (more info).


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1. Verdon F, Burnand B, Stubi CL, Bonard C, Graff M, Michaud A, Bischoff T, de Vevey M, Studer JP, Herzig L, Chapuis C, Tissot J, P├ęcoud A, Favrat B. Iron supplementation for unexplained fatigue in non-anaemic women: double blind randomised placebo controlled trial. BMJ. 2003 May 24;326(7399):1124. | link

2. Vaucher P, Druais PL, Waldvogel S, Favrat B. Effect of iron supplementation on fatigue in nonanemic menstruating women with low ferritin: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2012 Aug 7;184(11):1247-54. | link