B12 Deficiency:

Letter Concerning a Serious B12 Deficiency from a Pure Vegan Diet

by Jeana M.

Editor's note: I've always been concerned about B12 deficiencies developing in those who practice long-term vegan and raw food diets.

Even though many articles in natural health literature say one can get sufficient B12 with a 100% plant-based diet, I've always found the arguments less than convincing.

For your information, symptoms of B12 deficiency include nervousness, neuritis, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, poor muscular coordination, unpleasant body odor, and menstrual disturbances.

Personally, I've seen too many vegan friends end up with neuropathy, shaking hands, and impaired memories.

A letter came in that further confirmed my skepticism, and I'd like to share that letter with you as today's featured article.

Dear Chet,

I am sorry this is so long in getting to you. You had asked me for some info on my personal B-12 story.

My daughter (now almost 11 years old) was diagnosed with a B12 deficiency when she was about l8 months old.

She had been acting very lethargic, irritable, and had slowed down in development.

She had been exclusively breast-fed since birth, had no vaccinations, and had been born at home with no prenatal care, so I was very reluctant to seek the help of a traditional medical doctor.

But when I finally did, the B-12 deficiency was diagnosed on the basis of the megablastic anemia she had, which is quite specific for it.

I had been a vegetarian for some l5 years and on raw foods pretty exclusively for the five years preceding her birth (with occasional binges).

She was my second child. The first was spared the deficiency due to the fact that my occasional binges included cheese, I'm assuming.

After the diagnosis, I started her on oral B-12 tablets even before the doctor did. The response was amazing. She was like a different child.

But she was left with some permanent neurological damage --short memory, fine motor deficits, and she's in learning disabled classes at school.

She has come a long way and most people don't even know she has any problems at all.

After all this happened, I hated myself and was sorry I had ever heard of a vegetarian diet.

But I did a lot of research on the subject and decided that it wasn't the diet that was at fault. Rather, it was the quality of the food that was the problem.

I spoke with a few hygienic doctors who said the commercial produce I had been consuming was so aseptic, it was lacking the bacteria that would normally be present in fruits and veggies in their natural state.

The LeLeche League also had a wealth of information in their library. I had gotten some articles on mostly macrobiotic mothers that had also given their babies B-12 deficiencies, but usually they were not followed up to assess the long-term effects. It was mostly in third world nations that they found this problem.

So, needless to say, we supplement with B-12 now and also take blue-green algae.

I would urge all pregnant and nursing mothers to do so.

I did not have any symptoms of a B12 deficiency personally, although I never did have my blood level tested.

It scares me that so many raw foodists do not worry about B12 levels because I know by the time you show symptoms much damage has probably been done to the nervous system.

I have no one to blame but myself (I didn't do my homework), but I hope more people can be made aware of this potential problem.

Well, that's my story.

Click here for more stories on b12 deficiencies as well as long-term vegan diet dangers.

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