What every vegan needs to know about B12 deficiency

There are so many difficult questions in life. What is my purpose in life? What career should I choose? Rent or buy?

But if you’re vegan and wondering, “should I take a supplement to avoid B12 deficiency?” It’s quite easy. The answer is YES.

vegan b12 deficiencyIn a recent video, I discussed the unfortunate reality that everything we do as vegans is going to be attributed to the fact that we are vegan. A few months ago, a vegan woman died climbing Everest, and every news outlet made it sound as if she died because she was vegan.

It’s happened again. This time, the story relates to the tragic hospitalization of a vegan toddler suffering from B12 deficiency. The headline reported in the Italian news was  “Two-year-old hospitalized after being raised vegan.” This story is highlights a critical problems for vegans: pseudo-science and its contribution to media bias against veganism.

A toddler spent several days in intensive care being treated for vitamin deficiencies and other complications, thought to be caused by her parents’ vegan diet.

The toddler was suffering acute B12 deficiency and low hemaglobin.

Of course, the article’s title is misleading. Being raised vegan didn’t cause this child to suffer from B12 deficiency. It was most likely brought on by irresponsible parents, who happened to be vegan.

At this point, I think it’s important to note that sometimes children suffer from malnutrition due to no fault of their parents. For example, a good friend of mine had a child who was failing to thrive because of an undiagnosed gluten intolerance. As soon as their doctor was able to determine the cause, the child’s health improved dramatically.

Pseudo-science and ignorant parenting

Sadly, in many cases, the parents are simply negligent or ill-informed.

This situation is particularly prevalent in the alternative health community, where parents often won’t seek traditional medical advice until there child is extremely ill (and in particularly disturbing instances, dying, as in the horrific case of Ezekiel Stephan a toddler from Alberta who died of meningitis).

Unfortunately, there’s also a great deal of misinformation floating around the vegan community regarding the importance of B12 supplementation.

Supplements are necessary: get over it

Yes, you may be able to get the B12 you need from dirty vegetables and untreated water. But it’s a huge risk, and B12 supplements are affordable. Where is the problem in taking them?

My kids (and virtually all vegan kids around the planet) thrive on a vegan diet. But I do feed them foods fortified with B12, and they supplement with B12 and Vitamin D (we live in a climate where there’s no sunshine for half the year, so everyone needs vitamin D).

I get questions from people from time to time, wondering if sauerkraut has B12 or if eating seaweed in large enough quantities might replace a supplement.

The fact is, there’s no recommended vegan source of B12 apart from supplements.

Sure it’s a hassle to take a supplement. I never took vitamins before, so it’s taken some getting used to.

But it beats neurological damage and insanity hands down!

B12 deficiency is preventable. Fight the stereotype!

B12 deficiency and malnutrition shouldn’t be happening to first world vegans with access to medical care.

Get your bloodwork done, eat reasonably healthy and take your supplements or B12 shots. It really is that simple.

Please, do other vegans a favour and stay healthy. Honestly, it gets tiring to explain to omnivores that a vegan diet is healthy (“but where do you get your protein?”).

And it isn’t any easier when the media latches onto stories about unhealthy vegans as if it proved veganism causes poor health. Can you imagine if every case of vitamin-deficient omnivores made the news?

Fight the stereotype! Show society vegans can be healthy, modern, and science-based.

Going vegan is the best decision for your health, the environment, and the animals.

Health really is the most precious gift we have. Please don’t throw it away.

If you’re interested in finding out more about B12, I highly recommend plant-based physician Dr. Michael Greger’s videos on the topic, which can be found on his website, nutritionfacts.org

2 Responses to “What every vegan needs to know about B12 deficiency

  • Yes! I’m sure as a nutritionist this must get on your nerves (do people ask you if they can just eat sauerkraut instead – there are so many bizarre things people have asked me about B12!). I just started buying the sublingual tablets and the family loves them. We take 5,000 mg as a pill once a week. I hope that is the right amount. Thanks for stopping by, MaryEllen

  • Yes, it’s hot hard take a B12 supplement but it’s so essential for vegans. Hopefully word can get out more on supplementing. Also when purchasing B12 supplements, people should look for sublingual or chewable B12 vitamins as they are more easily absorbed and more bioavailable to the body.

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