Doctor's Note

This issue, perhaps more than any other, lays bare the power of moneyed interests to undermine public health. Look at the list of endorsers of legislation to reform this practice. Yet, the sway of nearly every single medical organization in the United States is no match for the combined might of Big Ag and Big Pharma.

For more on this issue, see:

What else do they feed farm animals? Check out:

For further context, check out my associated blog post: When a Scraped Knee May Once Again Kill.

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  • elsie blanche

    Any vegans out there take bee pollen? ….some people with autoimmune issues are told not to use it, some, though, claim it helps, and some feel it isn’t even vegan! Dr. Greger, any thoughts? Any of the other doctors on here have any experience with this?

    • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

      My thoughts – for what it`s worth – what purpose should bee pollen serve in humans? I wouldnt rely on any single food item, og any single supplement, to do anything good.

      • elsie blanche

        My consideration (haven’t yet) for bee pollen is for its
        B12 content (very small amounts, but still some B12). I am adversely effected by B12 supplements…all forms of B12. I’ve tried them all, in different doses, different times of day, with and without food. My body fights back pretty hard “don’t take this little pink pill.” I get a racing heart, heavy breathing, weight loss, amongst other stuff. So, I am in a tough situation – I need a food based B12 source, even if it is B12 in tiny amounts. I know there are some vegans (and studies) who/that claim that Laver (nori) has a bioavailable form of B12. Any thoughts on this? Any concerns about the high cadmium levels in laver? Much gratitude for any feedback.

        • Thea

          elsie: What a pain. I sympathize.

          Have you tried eating nutritional yeast? I love the taste (sort of cheesy) and it goes well in many foods. I don’t know if you would be able to incorporate enough nutritional yeast to get the b12 that you would need, but I think it would be worth looking into.

          Just a thought.

          • elsie blanche

            Thea, thank you. I have not tried nutritional yeast. I have been told that nutritional yeast has vitamin B12 added to it, the same form(s) of B12 found in supplements. And yes, you can buy nutritional yeast that has no added B12, only the naturally occurring B12, but all credible sources I’ve read claim that this is not a bioavailable form of B12. These sources claim that the inherent, naturally occurring B12 in N. yeast is an analogue. I know of others who have been adversely effected by B12 supplements and find themselves in a tough spot: what to do?! We need B12. By the way, I have asked the nutritional yeast company that sells the “naturally occurring” B12 yeast product (I won’t mention the brand name) for proof/some sort of verification that the B12 in their product has true, bioavailable B12 and not an analogue. I get no response, and I have tried several times over the years.

          • Thea

            elsie: Wow. That’s news to me. I had not heard of issues with nutritional yeast and B12 before.

            You may be absolutely right about the issues you raise. I am not knowledgeable enough to say one way or another. However, you prompted me to look up one of my favorite authorities for nutritional information – Brenda Davis, RD. In one of her slides, she lists Nutritional Yeast (specifically listing Red Star) as a legitimate method of getting B12. That slide says that a heaping tablespoon a day would do it.

            Just thought you might find that helpful. Brenda Davis is a very careful person. She wants people to be healthy, so she is careful about making recommendations. (Though of course, not everyone is right about everything.)

            Best of luck to you.

          • elsie blanche

            Thea, yes, nutritional yeast does have true B12, and Brenda is right, but only if the B12 has been added to the yeast product. And the B12 that is added to the yeast is the same B12 in the supplemental form we ingest in the little pink/red pills. It is not naturally occurring in the yeast. I like Brenda and her message. I may try the yeast to see how I react…maybe there are other things in the yeast that might prevent the B12 from adversely effecting me.

          • Thea

            elsie: I have one more thought for you concerning nutritional yeast.

            First a side story: There is a poster on this site who reported getting very ill eating flax seed. She really wanted to incorporate ground flax into her diet though. So, while the recommended daily amount is about 2-3 tablespoons, this poster started with 1/4 teaspoon. She found she was able to tolerate that amount. And then proceeded very slowly to up the dosage until she hit the recommended amount without being sick. I love this story and have no reason to doubt the poster.

            So back to you: My thought is that the little red pills contain *exponentially* more B12 than the daily amount one would get from nutritional yeast. Plus, you don’t have to start out with a heaping tablespoon of the nut yeast. You could start even smaller like the woman with the flax seed. I wonder if you tried a similar approach, maybe you could build up a tolerance for it.

            Just a thought for you. I’ve been wanting to write it for days and just didn’t have the time. Whatever happens, good luck.

          • elsie blanche

            Thea, I like the story you shared regarding flax. And good advice for navigating down this path. I am going to look into a few of the different brands of nutritional yeast and try to find one that does not have folic acid (synthetic folate) added to it. And then I’ll start with a small daily amount. Thea, thank you for reaching out to me. (And pretty please, Dr. Greger, chime in on your thoughts on synthetic folate and your expert opinion based on studies you consider credible. I think a video on this would be big-time relevant.)

          • Darryl

            Dr. G weighed in on folic acid vs. folate in this video

          • elsie blanche

            Great video. Thanks. Maybe I need more folate to help my brain search the archived videos more precisely before asking. Or maybe B12 would help on that one as well!

        • Thinkabouddit

          Have you tried the Healthy Habits B-12 Energy Patch? Maybe that would help.

          • elsie blanche

            I had considered taking this a ways back but found out they add folic acid to the product (folate in synthetic form) and have been led to believe that this synthetic should be avoided like the plague. (Dr. Fuhrman, for one.) Maybe Dr. Greger can do a video on this synthetic vitamin, showing the pros and cons. For now, I’m erring on cons. Thank you, though, for the suggestion.

          • Thinkabouddit

            I didn’t know that. Does anyone know if it is a good product. Kevin Gianni, Mat Monnarch, etc., are selling it. I thought it was a good product.

          • elsie blanche

            Ask Kevin Gianni and Matt Monnarch to watch Dr. Greger’s video on Folic Acid. I just saw it. Dr. Greger makes very clear his belief that folic acid (synthetic folate) should be avoided.
            Matt could hopefully suggest to the company that they remove the folic acid from the product.

        • Darryl

          The form of B12 produced by soil bacteria is hydroxocobalamin. The form most commonly used in supplements and food fortification is cyanocobalamin (because its easy to purify and hence cheap), and cyanocobalamin is known to cause allergic reactions and other side effects like yours in some people. A third form, methylcobalamin, has higher bioavailability (you’d need to ingest less) and is the kind prescribed in Japan.

          As there are no reliable plant sources of B12, as a vegan you need to either eat dirt rich in B12 producing bacteria, take supplements, or eat fortified foods.

          Its possible that if you have adverse reactions to the cyanocobalamin in supplements and highly fortified foods, that methylcobalamin or hydroxocobalamin supplements may not cause the same reaction. My favorite internet supplement shop sells 8 brands of methylcobalamin (aka methyl B12) in both subligual tablet and liquid forms, but the bacterial form of hydroxocobalamin is more rare and expensive – I found a handful of brands that sell it direct online.

          Myself, I add a few liquid drops of the common cyano- form to my pitcher of chilled hibiscus tea in the fridge. We have a limited ability to actively absorb B-12 from the gut, so more is absorbed if we spread out the dose over the day.

          • elsie blanche

            Darryl, thank you for your time and lengthy response. My reactions to the methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin, and dibencozide forms of B12 are even worse than the cyanocobalamin. I’ve tried pills to swallow, sublingual, and injections. All, and all supplemental forms, cause very pronounced and worrisome reactions. There are people who claim that certain individuals who react adversely to supplemental B12 have screwed up methylation cycles, whatever that means. And from reading the message boards online, a fair amount of people have negative reactions on par with mine. Darryl, what about the possibility of raw laver (nori) containing a true B12?

          • Plantstrongdoc M.D.


            Do you have a link to your favorite internet supplement shop, and where you can buy hydroxocobalamin?
            PS Doc

          • Darryl

            Vitacost seems to have the most reasonable prices on the few supplements & herbs I use, but does not carry hydroxocobalamin. But a few other shops/brands turned up in google: 1, 2, 3.

          • Plantstrongdoc M.D.


    • stringbean

      Beekeepers use antibiotics too

    • Epifurious Ferrous

      there’s no such thing as a vegan that takes bee pollen, because bee pollen is not vegan :)

    • TMR

      Vegans don’t use animal products or use animals, so they don’t use bee products. Check out –> 3 reasons not to eat honey

      • elsie blanche

        Reading this link made my day. Thanks.

  • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

    36 years of warning and nothing happens…..Meatproduction is such a great thing, the endproduct kills you, the produtionmethod makes superbugs (that kill you), the animals suffer, not to mention pollution af water, air, global warming, deforestation……When will people wake up?

    • HemoDynamic, M.D.

      I agree! But the problem is complex and until we get Meat, Dairy, Eggs, etc out of our Political Structure which subsidizes them with at least $16,000,000,000 per year it is going to be tough to educate the general population on the subject. But kudos to Dr. Greger and this fantastic website!!!!

      And of course John McDougall, MD, Neal Barnard, MD, and Dean Ornish, MD, T. Colin, Campbell, PhD, Michael Klaper, MD, Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, Jeff Novick, RD.

  • Epifurious Ferrous

    If “organic meat” animals are not fed antibiotics, what happens when they get sick and need medicine? Are organic meat animals then fed antibiotics?

    • Veganrunner

      As I understand it, once one of their animals get sick and require anti-biotics they no longer use it for meat-theoretically.

      • Epifurious Ferrous

        thanks for the reply. i wonder what the animals are used for then?

        • Plantstrongdoc M.D.

          Probably food to other animals…… :-(

    • Missy

      When animals are pastured, instead of being confined in a barn as the conventional dairy farms do and chicken farms do, they are healthier and need far less medical interventions. Antibiotics are not needed.

    • HereHere

      There are two options. One is to treat the animal with antibiotics and keep it separate from the rest, according to the methods laid out by the organic certifying body. If it were a dairy cow, for example, the milk could be sold as non-organic.

      The other option is to isolate the animal and treat it with herbs, TLC and time, (traditional methods, you could say).

      I know of a local organic farm who gave their sick dairy cow to a start-up organic farmer. The diseased animal was pulled from the main herd, and went to a farm with only 4 to 6 bovines. It was original thought to be mastitis, but in the end, it was something else wrong with part of the udder. It was treated without antibiotics. What happens to a chicken with a broken wing or fracture,
      I don’t know. I think in big ag, they have so many in a barn they wouldn’t even notice until it was dead. I would call that a failure to provide adequate care to an animal.

  • Coacervate

    I would just add that all we need to do is stop this abuse of antibiotics (and ourselves) and all those superbugs will go away.

    There is a high metabolic cost to the bugs to maintain resistance. Remove the selective pressure (the antibiotics) and the regular wild type bugs will win the battle for survival because they won’t be wasting energy manufacturing resistance factors. Classic Darwinian science.

  • greed greed and more greed!

  • Sue

    I thought I was doing great eating lots of organic apples and pears until I read that they are sprayed with antibiotics to prevent fire blight!

    • Sue

      Here’s another article: It’s definitely a dilemma for organic apple and pear farmers. However, the majority aren’t using antibiotics in the US. And for those apples sprayed with the antibiotics (on the blossoms only), the author couldn’t find antibiotic residue on the fruit but that was only his own personal test. Apple varieties naturally resistant to fire blight: Jonafree, Melrose, Northwestern Greening, Nova EasyGro, Winesap, Prima, Priscilla, Quinte, RedFree, Sir Prize. Pears naturally resistant: Orient, Summercrisp, Kieffer, Warren. Fire blight hasn’t arrived yet in Chili, China and Argentina, so farmers haven’t had to take measures against the bacteria there.

  • TMR

    Dr Greger, while I very much appreciate your videos and information, I wonder why
    you never talk about animal ethics. I’m sure you would agree that
    the whole reason we should stop using animals for food, clothing,
    entertainment or other reasons is because using sentient beings as
    property is morally unjustifiable, and is great violence. When we talk
    about this issue in terms of health and environment, we deny this very
    important truth.

  • quercetin

    Fluroquinolones and Quercetin

    The literature I have read states that
    Quercetin acts on the same part of bacterial DNA that fluroquinolones
    act on. For this reason, foods high in Quercetin are suggested to be
    avoided. There are one or two papers that show “in vitro” Quercetin does
    increase the MIC’s for the pathogens researched, but the implications
    “in vivo” are just theorised.

    A vegetarian/vegan diet is very high in Quercetin, but, it is also very high in other biologically active phytonutrients.

    question is, are there are research papers looking at the clinical
    effectiveness of fluroquinolone therapy when comparing between (low
    vegetable) omnivores and vegetarians/vegans. This type of study would
    help to answer the question of Quercetin and Fluroquinolones “in vivo”.

    It is difficult to decide whether to increase your
    vegetable/fruit intake to boost your immune system and anti-oxidant
    capacity, or to choose to increase the efficacy of the antibacterial
    compound, at the cost of a diminished immune system.

    A study like this
    could help to conclusively show whether eating your greens may, “in
    vivo” boost your immune system AND increase the efficacy of

  • deanjon

    if one eats organically grown vegetables or mushrooms (e.g.) and ingests some of the unwashed soil, would that be a way of getting enough vitamin B12?

  • beetsbeansbutts

    Hi Dr. Greger.

    I hope you are planning on making a video about the Dec 11th FDA recommendation to phase out certain preventative antibiotics in animal feed.

    I’m pretty scared of the idea that people who follow in our footsteps will not be able to reap the benefits of antibiotics in the future.

  • Darryl

    ‘Superbugs’ Kill India’s Babies and Pose an Overseas Threat

    “Five years ago, we almost never saw these kinds of infections,” said Dr. Neelam Kler, chairwoman of the department of neonatology at New Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, one of India’s most prestigious private hospitals. “Now, close to 100 percent of the babies referred to us have multidrug resistant infections. It’s scary.”

  • Robert Haile

    Animals left to graze freely are much healthier. I do not eat meat or dairy, but notice the cows climbing hills and mountains in Costa Rica to feed. They look more like athletes than the bloated obese creatures in the USA. Chickens are the same. Whenever I travel to the USA, I am astounded by the obesity in all areas of life, though fast food and obesity are beginning to creep into Costa Rica.