Vegan Paralysis

Vegan Paralysis
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Those eating plant-based diets must ensure a reliable source of vitamin B12 via supplements or fortified foods.

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So that’s calcium and iodine, but I’ve saved the most important for last. Studies continue to show that those eating plant-based diets tend not to get enough vitamin B12. But really, what’s the worst that can happen if we don’t get enough B12? Well, if you happen to flip open an issue of the Medical Journal of Nutrition this summer, you’d see titles like this: “Irreversible subacute sclerotic combined degeneration of the spinal cord in a vegan subject”—and yes, it really is as bad as it sounds. If you look here closely, a 57-year-old man, member of a “vegan cult”—can you blame the doctor, though? Look at what non-B12-supplemented veganism did to this guy: rotted his spinal cord from the inside out. They immediately started B12 injections, and he got better. He’s still paralyzed, and may never walk again—but at least he’s alive.

We wonder why nutritionists and doctors may be skeptical about plant-based diets after reading case reports like this? And it’s so easy to get our B12. B12-fortified foods like fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soy milk, fortified nutritional yeast, or little supplements. Sublingual B12 tablets once a week; it’s all in the handout that should have come with the DVD, and you know we’ll never hear of anything like this ever 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 veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

So that’s calcium and iodine, but I’ve saved the most important for last. Studies continue to show that those eating plant-based diets tend not to get enough vitamin B12. But really, what’s the worst that can happen if we don’t get enough B12? Well, if you happen to flip open an issue of the Medical Journal of Nutrition this summer, you’d see titles like this: “Irreversible subacute sclerotic combined degeneration of the spinal cord in a vegan subject”—and yes, it really is as bad as it sounds. If you look here closely, a 57-year-old man, member of a “vegan cult”—can you blame the doctor, though? Look at what non-B12-supplemented veganism did to this guy: rotted his spinal cord from the inside out. They immediately started B12 injections, and he got better. He’s still paralyzed, and may never walk again—but at least he’s alive.

We wonder why nutritionists and doctors may be skeptical about plant-based diets after reading case reports like this? And it’s so easy to get our B12. B12-fortified foods like fortified breakfast cereals, fortified soy milk, fortified nutritional yeast, or little supplements. Sublingual B12 tablets once a week; it’s all in the handout that should have come with the DVD, and you know we’ll never hear of anything like this ever 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 veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

More on Vitamin B12:

For further context, check out my associated blog post: Vegan B12 deficiency: putting it into perspective.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

19 responses to “Vegan Paralysis

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    1. Hi, I know B12 isn’t found in any telluric flora; mushrooms aren’t plants though, is their B12 in shiitake mushrooms or any other fungi?
      Thanks

    2. That man who is still paralyzed needs to do brain plasticity. They are getting spinal cord injury people out of wheel chairs in Kentucky using brain plasticity. Micropulse ICES is part of a study on severely severed spinal cord injuries, too.

      Paul Bach-Y-Rita is one of the more well known people who were involved in the field. He died in 2006. but they are doing amazing things with it now.

      I would like a video on the foods, which increase neurogenesis someday.

  1. Hi Dr. Greger! I first wanted to thank you for this very informative site. I intend to discover much more useful information as time goes on…

    But for the moment I am curious – Of course I don’t intend to stop taking B12… But your video mentioned well water carrying B12, and I’m on well water – Wondering if I did drink several glasses of water per day – Would that be enough to supplement if I wanted to…

    And another question on this line – Is B12 in well water destroyed by boiling or freezing?

    Thank you so much for answering these questions as you find the time to do so.

  2. Hi Bea, Since B12 is made by bacteria it can be found in well water. Vitamin B12 is adversely affected by factors such as acidity, heat, as well as certain minerals such as iron and copper. Freezing shouldn’t be a problem. Since it doesn’t appear that we can overdose on B12 I would continue taking your supplemental B12 as the problems with deficiency can be severe and irreversible. I would follow Dr. Greger’s recommendations for insuring adequate B12 intake either by taking 2000 mcg once a week, 100 mcg daily, or at least 2 servings daily(at least 6 hours apart) of B12 fortified foods each containing at least 20% “Daily Value” on label. It is also advisable to periodically check the safety of well water (the EPA recommends annual checks).

  3. First off, great and informative site. I did enjoy your “Maximum Nutrition”!
    I read alot about the B12-Issue. Since I went vegan about 4 weeks ago; how pressing is this matter? When does B12-insufficiency start to show up? Should I already be worried? Doesn’t my Marmite (UK)/Vegemite (AUS) cover my B12 needs?

    Or, blatantly, if B12 is a bacterial vitamin coming from the soil, why bother wash organic, homegrown vegetables?

    Cheers!

  4. Is b12 replenished in the body if you ingest it say once per month in high dose? For example I am vegan most of the time, but once per month I eat liver (which contains a lots of b12)?

  5. I have just spoken to my doctor, a hematologist. He told me that -here for sure, Warsaw, Poland- B12 shortage is hardly ever an issue. He has many vege patients suffering with enamia- women mainly, he says- but the problem is tha lack of iron, not B12. Btw, B12 is found in inactive yeast, is this a good supplement?

    1. Harriet Sugar Miller: I don’t know if those foods contain B12 or not, but I do know that B12 is a by-product of bacteria.
      http://nutritionfacts.org/2011/08/25/vegan-b12-deficiency-putting-it-into-perspective/

      From the above article: “It’s true, plants don’t make B12. Animals don’t make it either. B12 is made by microbes that blanket the earth. These bacteria grow in the guts of animals, which is why their bodies and products can be a source of this vitamin. Our herbivore primate cousins get all they need ingesting bugs, dirt, and feces, and we may once have gotten all we needed by drinking out of mountain streams or well water. But now we chlorinate our water supply to kill off any bugs. So we don’t get a lot of B12 in our water anymore, but we don’t get a lot of cholera either—that’s a good thing.”

      I also understand that we can’t count on foods that may naturally contain some B12 to have enough of it to meet our needs. Thus, the safest way to make sure we have enough B12 is to take a supplement.

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