Nails and Vitamin B(12?)

I just came across the following email I received last November (before I had this blog) from an old friend which I thought could be helpful:

“I ended up drifting from the vegan diet while in Taiwan because my nails were constantly breaking and my vegetarian girlfriend insisted I try eating meat again. I thought, ‘Well if a vegetarian is insisting I eat meat, maybe I should?’ Actually many other people were constantly urging me to eat meat there too, telling me I’m too thin etc. The carnivorous diet didn’t effect my health at all really, besides effecting my nails.

“I experienced immediate re-strengthening of my nails within 2 weeks of adding meat back into my diet. Tried going off meat again a few times, but nails would start breaking again.

“During this period I was against supplements for some reason, until reading Paul Pitchford’s Healing with Whole Foods and decided to try taking a B-complex and no meat. It worked! So I went veg again and have been for over a year. Guide to Cruelty Free Eating confirmed what I experientially discovered. Great that you’ll save countless more from needing to do the research and self experimentation on their own. I haven’t tried the mega doses of sublingual B yet – I’m going to try that too as I must have been quite deficient in B’s. I remember seeing somewhere that B’s are related to hair and finger nail nutrition, though I haven’t seen it recently. But taking B complex solved my nail problem.

“It’s great to have found my way back to VO. Thanks for still being here and all of the work you’ve done and are doing!”

11 Responses to “Nails and Vitamin B(12?)”

  1. Ryan Says:

    Perhaps he had a biotin deficiency? That would probably be in a B-complex, and contributes to nail strength. So does silica (possibly more so) but that would be less likely to be found in a B-complex.

  2. Fredrik Says:

    Nail strength recovering in TWO weeks? Aren’t nails dead material? With a growth rate of 3 mm/month, two weeks should not be enough to notice any change. Perhaps this guy suffered from confirmation bias, further enhanced by peer pressure?

    I spent eight vegan months in Taiwan and my nails did not weaken. I’ve also spent 3+ years in Singapore, with similar vegan foods and never noticed any problems with my nails, hair, muscles, eyes, ears, etc. However, there are places where healthy vegan food is practically impossible to find. Perhaps this man ended up in one of those, ate a lousy diet, and ended up feeling bad physically and psychologically?

    It’s great to see that he solved his problems though, and became vegan again!

  3. Kelley Says:

    Thats really interesting, one of the fist effects of my vegan diet I noticed was an increase in nail strength.

  4. Ravi Says:

    Barring some miracle or fake press-on nails, I don’t believe he would notice an immediate improvement in nails within only 2 weeks because of the much-longer time it takes nails to grow. Maybe a little psychology is at work there. Two people have commented to me about their nail condition worsening within 4 months of starting a vegan diet, however. Vertical ridges appeared first on the thumbs, then slightly less on on other fingers. I myself have also noticed this somewhat. It is not B vitamins, because I make sure I get plenty. I’ve also ruled out calcium, vitamin D, biotin, and iron. My basic bloodwork is normal, and I’m otherwise very healthy. I would like to get to the bottom of this and find a solution. I eat more soy products than I used to. That’s the only difference I can think of.

    I know countless vegans that this doesn’t happen to, and they have beautiful nails and skin. But for certain people it seems to be a problem. I wonder if this could be a certain amino acid I’m not getting regularly in my diet without realizing it? Any suggestions?

  5. Jack Norris RD Says:

    I’m afraid I don’t have any suggestions. There are a few studies showing that biotin supplementation can help brittle nails, but you said you’ve ruled that out (and vertical ridges are not the same as brittle, I realize). I can’t find much else about fingernails and nutrition on PubMed, except for extreme conditions.

    My understanding is that vertical ridges do not indicate poor health, whereas horizontal ridges do.

  6. r. mccorkle Says:

    fwiw, since I started eating quinoa my nails have started growing a lot faster and seem stronger. I was wondering if it was simply the protein (I started eating quinoa specifically for that reason), but looking at it could have been a number of things. I did not change any other part of my diet during the same period.


  7. Laura Stuebe Says:

    My nails are breaking beneath the quick – and I think I have a fairly healthy vegan diet. I’ve started to eat more greens and vegetables in general, and also more fruit in lieu of a lot of grains. i’ll report back if I see a difference. Even having no nails would not make me change my mind about being vegan – once you understand, there’s no going back – and I am so glad!

  8. Martha Rowen Says:

    I realize that this is an old post and wonder if there is any more recent information on diet and nail heaith. My nails have always been brittle, splitting and breaking off as soon as they grow to the ends of my fingers. This has nothing to do with my vegan diet of 20 years as this was equally the case when I was an omnivore. I’ve assumed it’s genetic, as my mother and sister had the same problem with their nails. If there is more definitive information on dietary connections, I’d love to hear about them. Interestingly, BTW, my toenails don’t seem to have this problem.

  9. Jack Norris RD Says:


    I don’t have any further information. Sorry and good luck!

  10. Karin Says:

    Are Yukon gold potatoes too high in glycemic index. I sometimes crave more when I eat them on an SOS vegan plan
    I am a senior and slim. Thank you mr Norris

  11. Jack Norris RD Says:


    I imagine Yukon gold potatoes have a relatively high glycemic index since most white potatoes do. If you mix high glycemic index foods with fat and fiber, it tends to slow down their release. There are very few foods that people can’t eat in some amount and stay healthy, but if you have any conditions that would make your blood sugar more sensitive than the average person, that needs to be taken into account.

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