The B12 Controversy Explained by Frederic Patenaude

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The B12 Controversy Explained by Frederic Patenaude

B12 is a tricky topic.

On the one hand, people attacking a plant-based diet use it as an argument for why eating vegan is “unnatural.”

If this diet were so natural, then why the need for a vitamin that is only found in animal products?

Fair question.

In reality, B12 is neither made by plants or animals. It’s made by bacteria.

In ancestral times, we got plenty of B12 because our environment wasn’t so sanitized. And yes, that included residues of feces that found their way into our food. Yikes! Yes, but that’s how many vegetarian-eating apes get their B12. They even get B12 from spring water.

Nowadays, we live in a more sanitized environment, and that has led to significant benefits: we don’t die of bacterial infections like we used to, or like wild monkeys do.

There are some downsides, and one of them is that anyone following a largely vegan diet has to supplement with B12.

Another interesting fact:

Many people have quoted studies that vegetarians do NOT live longer than the general populations. Those studies happen to be done on British vegetarians and vegans.

On the other hands, studies that were done in America (with the 7th Day Adventists, who happen to recommend a vegetarian diet with different degrees of compliance) show that vegetarians and vegans do indeed live longer. In fact, American Adventist (vegetarian) men live on average ten years longer than American men! That is a striking difference.

So why did the British vegetarians do badly in all the studies?

It could be because of B12.

I recently attended a talk by Dr. Michael Greger, author of the new book How Not to Die, and he talked about this very issue. By law, many organic products in Britain can’t have supplemental B12. In the USA, we find added B12 in soy milk, breakfast cereals, etc. Because most British vegetarians don’t supplement, they become deficient. In fact, 75% of them are severely deficient.

The same thing happens to raw vegan, and I’ve known many examples.

It’s also easy for raw vegans to become B12 deficient because they consume only natural foods and don’t drink supplemented soy milk or eat breakfast cereal. If they don’t take a supplement, their exposure to B12 can be nil.

B12 deficiency raises homocysteine levels, which can lead to heart disease and other symptoms.

Gabriel Cousens, MD. writes:

There are at least fifteen vegan studies on adults that have shown identical results. Cooked food and live food vegans show the same results. Approximately 80% of those who do not use B12 supplements or B12 fortified foods sooner or later develop symptoms of B12 deficiency. These may include physical symptoms such as the inability to walk, tremors, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, fever, upper respiratory infections, impotence, infertility, anemia as well as neurological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, hyperactive reflexes, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, impaired memory, and paranoid delusions. Consistent research over the last decade has shown that vegans and live food people of all ages and sexes have a much higher risk of becoming B-12 deficient.

A published report cites a man in his eighties who had been in excellent health as a vegan for 38 years, when suddenly he began to suffer from mental disturbances, developed confusion, and sadness, lost bowel control, and lost motor control skill to the point where he could marginally stand up. After one shot of B12 his physical and mental health began to return rapidly and by one week many of his symptoms had disappeared.


So there you have it. Make sure to supplement with B12.

It’s not about what’s “natural” or “unnatural.” It’s about being smart and understanding in what kind of environment we live.

Keep in mind that people who promote high-meat diets are also the ones pushing the most supplements. They even have the audacity to push protein powder, on an already high-protein diet!

On a healthy plant based diet, your intake of most essential nutrients will be through the roof. And the nutrients you want to minimize will be naturally low. You’ll get plant-based iron, instead of the carcinogenic heme-based iron (found in animal blood).

All good stuff… as long as you supplement with B12.

So what’s the best option? There are some decent supplements available on the market.

B12 shots work best to raise levels quickly. That’s why I switched to B12 patches. They work very well to increase B12 levels quickly without the cost and pain of shots.

Initially, I used the B12 patches weekly to raise my levels, and now I only need to use them once a month to stay at a healthy level.
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