A friend of ours has recently been very concerned for his fiance. She had been suffering from muscle weakness and the doctors were concerned that she was developing MS, multiple sclerosis.
The recent diagnosis was perhaps more surprising, yet a relief. She is a vegan and is suffering from a deficiency of vitamin B12. Fortunately this was discovered before permanent nerve damage had taken place, and she will be restored to full health by some changes to her diet.
People who do not get enough B12 may suffer from low energy, depression, lethargy, slowed brain function, and eventually anemia and permanent nerve damage. This is because vitamin B12 is required for cell division and the formation of new blood corpuscles.
Vitamin B12 is not present naturally in any fruits, vegetables or nuts. It is produced by bacteria. Meat, eggs, and dairy products are natural sources.
Although the actual B12 daily requirement is low, possibly as low as 1 microgram a day, vegans need to supplement their diets. Usually 2.4 micrograms is recommended. Some seaweeds, algae and soy products seem to contain B12, but it has not been shown that these are in a form that the body can absorb.
Also, bacteria in the human gut produce vitamin B12, but this occurs too low in the intestines for useful absorption.
Vegans who truly wish to avoid all animal product must add some fortified foods to their diet. Nutritional yeast is one source; as little as a tablespoon a day can provide adequate B12. Supplements in pill form are available. These usually contain 25 micrograms since the body will not absorb the vitamin efficiently.
Vegans need to exercise a little care to protect themselves from a serious health problem.
An Attractive, Useful, Nutritional Widget
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