There are two vitamins not produced by plants that may require supplementation.
Broccoli sprouts are likely safer and more nutritious than alfalfa sprouts.
In terms of longevity, there's one last supplement to consider: Vitamin D. Who votes shorter life? Who votes the same life expectancy? Longer life? Vitamin D seems to be the only supplement that can actually make us live longer.
Before we start the next round, I want to note the two vitamins that we can’t get enough of from a healthy diet, and vitamin D is one of them. Vitamin D is made mostly by animals, such as yourself—when you’re exposed to sunlight.
The tiny amounts added to cow's milk or soy milk isn't enough for optimal health. There are only two ways to truly get enough—sun or supplements, and it depends where you live.
Basically, no matter how long you sunbathe nude in December and January—in our nation's capitol, for example—the sun’s rays are at such an angle that we don't make any vitamin D. So, the latest science supports supplemental D during the winter if you're above LA/Dallas/Atlanta—or, for anyone, anywhere, any time not getting enough sun.
All right, it’s time for a lightning round question. Before I give you the question, I'll give you the answer. Anyone?
Okay, the question is: what is the only other vitamin not made by plants? Vitamin B12. It's not made by animals either, though. It's made by little microbes, bacteria that blanket the earth. These bacteria grow in the guts of some of the animals people eat, and so their bodies can be sources of B12 for those eating animals.
We likely used to get all the B12 we needed drinking out of mountain streams or well water, but now we chlorinate our water supply to kill off any bacteria. So, we don't get a lot of B12 in our water anymore; we don't get a lot of cholera either! So, that's a good thing.
But in our sanitized modern world, studies continue to show that those eating plant-based diets are simply not getting enough vitamin B12. Is this really a problem? Let me review the medical literature on B12 deficiency just over the last year.
Keep in mind that it’s so easy to get B12, from either B12-fortified foods or supplements. But like everything else, you actually have to do it.
This young vegetarian woman’s toes turned purple. You can develop a polymorphic maculopapular lesion.
Her vitamin B12 deficiency cause her nails to turn black, and her hair to turn white. She was given some B12 and you can see where her hair started to grow back normally. B12 also evidently makes you put on lipstick?
But you can suffer cognitive decline, or become suicidally depressed because of B12 deficiency, as this 23-year-old lifelong vegetarian did.
This 38-year-old vegan was misdiagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, and institutionalized because of the hallucinations and psychotic delusions triggered by his B12 deficiency.
As bad as all these examples are, though, these folks were just hurting themselves.
But not taking vitamin B12 during pregnancy is inexcusable. It can cause infantile seizures, for example.
Vegan babies should be a lot of things, but floppy is not one of them. It is these negligent vegans that led this year to an official pronouncement from the European Society for Pediatric Nutrition: “Infants and young children should not be fed a vegan diet,” they wrote. Now, what they should have said is, make sure vegan kids get their B12. I mean Dr. Spock even told us to raise our kids with no meat, no dairy.
And the B12 recommendation probably goes for everyone, not just those eating plant-based diets. New studies on the bioavailability of B12 suggest that animal products are not great sources after all. Less than 4% of the B12 in scrambled eggs, for example, is actually absorbed, according to these new studies.
In fact, in modern society, only those eating fortified foods, like breakfast cereal or supplements, seem to getting enough for optimum health. So, there's been a renewed call for all grain products in the U.S. to be fortified with B12, like they already do in Israel—which could mean that by law, all bread, all pasta, would have to be enriched with B12, and then, hopefully, we'd never have to hear cases like this again.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Dianne Moore.
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K. Aroni, K. Anagnostopoulou, E. Tsagroni, & E. Ioannidis. Skin hyperpigmentation and increased angiogenesis secondary to vitamin B12 deficiency in a younf vegetarian woman. Acta Derm Venereol, 88(2):191-192, 2008.
R. Clarke, J. Birks, E. Nexo, P.M. Ueland, J. Schneede, J. Scott, A. Molloy, & J.G. Evans. Low vitamin B-12 status and risk of cognitive decline in older adults. Am J Clin Nutr, 86(5):1384-1391, 2007.
More on Vitamin D:
And on Vitamin B12:
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