Quick Link: Vitamin B12

The NYTimes has a popular article going around about Vitamin B12 (here). Because bio-available B12 can only be obtained from animal sources (especially liver, red meat, fish, and shellfish), strict vegetarians and vegans run the risk of a deficiency. From the article:

B12 is an essential vitamin with roles throughout the body. It is needed for the development and maintenance of a healthy nervous system, the production of DNA and formation of red blood cells.

A severe B12 deficiency results in anemia, which can be picked up by an ordinary blood test. But the less dramatic symptoms of a B12 deficiency may include muscle weakness, fatigue, shakiness, unsteady gait, incontinence, low blood pressure, depression and other mood disorders, and cognitive problems like poor memory.

The article talks a lot about supplementation, but then, curiously, at the end drops these tidbits:

Although a B12 deficiency can raise blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, supplements of B12 have not reduced cardiovascular risk.

And while high homocysteine levels are linked to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, lowering them with B12 supplements has not been shown to improve cognitive function.

Here’s the deal. We are human animals that evolved under certain conditions. Just as we evolved needing Vitamin D from sunlight, so did we evolve with enough natural sources of vitamin B12 in our diet because the effects are dire when we go without it. I always maintain that I won’t question someone’s ethical reason for not consuming animals, but how can anyone debate this fact on a health basis? Evidence such as this is putting the nail in the coffin of vegetarianism/veganism for health purposes.

Now go eat some liver.

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