View Full Version : 50 ways to develop B12 deficiency

Pages : [1] 2 3

May 8th, 2004, 05:34 PM
During the following months, I'll list at least 50 possible ways you could develop B12 deficiency. Many points on the list would be interesting for non-vegans as well, but (of course) I will focus on B12 issues that are relevant for plant eaters. You're all welcome to discuss each and every point on the list, but please do it by starting a separate thread.

As a reference, the late dr. Victor Herbert insisted that nobody would need more than 0.1 mcg B12 daily (the B12/homocysteine issue was probably NOT taken into consideration here), and he wrote that "0.2-0.25 micrograms per day absorbed from food is adequate for normal people". The Recommended Daily Average is 1.0 mcg/daily according to World Health Organization, USA recommends 2.4 mcg daily. Safety margins are normally built into RDA values.

1) You might be eating only B12 poor plants.

According to this (http://www.jivdaya.org/vitamin_b12_breakthrough.htm) study, which focused on spinach, barley and soy only, 1kg spinach grown in maneured soil contains 17.8 mcg B12 (dry weight), while soybeans grown with manure had only 2.9 mcg of B12 (and only 1.6 mcg with chemical fertilizers.) Whether plants are a reliable B12 source or not is a hot topic, but this example should document that the B12 levels should NOT expect that all plants contain enough B12, even if they are organically grown, raw, or eaten unwashed.

Some plants contain B12. Some of these B12-molecules are so called 'B12 analogues', which may - or may not - be a problem (this is another hot topic). Whatever you do, and whether you are a vegan or not, we recommend everybody to pay attention to their B12 levels.

If you want to get B12 from plants, at least make sure you eat plants that may contain B12.

May 10th, 2004, 08:36 AM
2) Using microwave owens might be the worst thing you can do to your food. Please check this. (http://veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=203)

ACcording to this (http://www.webhealth.co.uk/research/vitamin_b.asp) site, Japanese researchers have found that microwaving foods for 6 minutes causes 30-40% loss of vitamin B12. Microwaving caused greater B12 loss then bringing milk from room temperature to boiling point. However, loss of B12 was the same after 6 minutes microwaving or 30 minutes boiling.

Reduction rate: 30-40%

May 18th, 2004, 04:59 PM
3) B12 deficiency will/can occur in children of mothers with low B12 levels. If you were raised as a vegan, and your mother was exposed to for example these chemicals (http://veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=113) during (or before) pregnancy or nursing, your life most likely started with too low B12 levels.

There are known cases of vegan babies that are breastfed for a short time only, and then fed the babies with B12-poor formulas, soy milk etc, where the babies developed severe cases of B12 deficiency. Of course, in such situations, many doctors and media will blame the V12 deficiency on the vegan lifestyle it self, not on lack of breast feeding or lack of B12 in the mother in question.

Mother's milk contains good* levels of B12 (unless the mother is deficient). Since most babies prefer breast feeding for 3-4 years if they are allowed to, many have started out with too little B12 in their bloodstream, since breastfeeding for 3+ years isn't normal except in so called 'primitive' cultures.

*The normal level of B-12 for breast milk is 180 - 300 pg. per ml, if the mother is eating standard (non-vegan) diet.

More about breastfeeding in this article. (http://essenes.net/vbreastfeed.htm)

Jun 10th, 2004, 11:03 AM
4) Use of antibiotics. Here (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=113) are some examples of antibiotics that reduce B12 levels, and according to this (http://www.mary-anns.com/8%20of%202004.htm) and other articles I've seen, we should also use plants that contain antibiotics with care, in order to preserve the B12 levels in what we eat: "Taking antibiotics or eating plants that contain antibiotics can upset the bacteria that manufacture B12 and this too can contribute to a B12 deficiency. We do know that B12 deficiency in rural diets (including vegetarians) is extremely rare. Recent research completed in Australia indicated that 40% of people who ate meat regularly were B12 deficient, so it is common in both meat eaters and vegetarians living in westernized, more affluent communities. Whether this is due to over sterilization, stress or consumption of other processed foods is unclear."

Jun 24th, 2004, 08:52 AM
5) Lactose intolerance may increase B-12 needs, according to 'Nutrition for Vegetarians' by drs. Trash. I assume that many vegans are lactose-intolerant people who would have been lacto-vegetarians if it wasn't for their lactose intolerance. If this is correct, this would affect studies on B12 deficiency in vegans, because these vegans (the lactose intolerant ones) might have increased needs for B12, and therefore more easily develop signs of B12 deficiency.

Jul 7th, 2004, 10:28 PM
6) Helicobacter pylori.

From http://www.yourhealthbase.com/vitamin_B12.html :

"It is estimated that more than 50 per cent of adults in developed countries are infected with the Helicobacter pylori bacterium. H pylori has been implicated in stomach ulcers, indigestion (dyspepsia), gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), stomach cancer, and MALT lymphoma. About 10-15 per cent of adults over 60 years of age are affected by a vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) deficiency. Researchers at the Turkish Military Medical Academy now provide convincing evidence that the two are linked. A detailed study of 138 patients with vitamin B12 deficiency and anemia discovered that 77 (58 per cent) of the patients had a H pylori infection. Eradication of this infection successfully cured the anemia and reversed the vitamin B12 deficiency in 31 (40 per cent) of the 77 infected patients. The researchers conclude that a H pylori infection can cause a vitamin B12 deficiency and that this deficiency, in many cases, can be totally eliminated by eradicating the infection. EDITOR'S NOTE: Memory loss, fatigue, and mental confusion are often the first indicators of a vitamin B12 deficiency."

From http://www.mothernature.com/Library/Ency/Index.cfm/Id/2924006 :

Infection with Helicobacter pylori, a common cause of gastritis and ulcers, has been shown to cause or contribute to adult vitamin B12 deficiency. H. pylori has this effect by damaging cells in the stomach that make intrinsic factor—a substance needed for normal absorption of vitamin B12. In one trial, H. pylori was detected in 56% of people with anemia due to vitamin B12 deficiency. Successful eradication of H. pylori led to improved blood levels of B12 in 40% of those infected.8 Other studies have also suggested a link between H. pylori infection and vitamin B12 deficiency.9 10 Elimination of H. pylori infection does not always improve vitamin B12 status. People with H. pylori infections should have vitamin B12 status monitored.

Jul 31st, 2004, 09:04 AM
Fish tapeworms can consume 80% to 100% of a host's vitamin B12. Tapeworm, like other parasites, doesn't necessarily disappear even if one stops eating fish...

For people who have been eating fish in the past, don't forget that it's possible that parasites/eggs (like fish tapeworm) can be transmitted from the fish to the human in the process of cutting/preparing the fish before it's cooked, for example by using the same knives for both the fish and when preparing a salad.

More here:

Jul 31st, 2004, 10:21 AM
If it is correct that between 60 and 95% of all people have been/are exposed to parasites, parasites could be a more important B12 reducing factor than most people think. More information on parasites and B12 here. (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4447#post4447)

Parasites can cause B12 deficiency. Even if you don't eat beef or smoked salmon anymore, you may still have parasites in your system. Some of them can live in your body for years, and some of them survive even in chlorinated water for up to 18 months!

You can read more about natural treatments for parasites here:


Jul 31st, 2004, 10:48 AM
You body wasn't born into a healthy world. Even if we avoid animal products and maybe junk food now, our intestines and digestive system in general is affected by the fact that most of us haven't lived like that forever. I don't have any links (yet) that proves that B12 intake is reduced due to an 'unclean' digestive system (maybe you do?), but if you look at the pictures in this (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=4449#post4449) thread, you might agree that it's very likely that intestines that have been exposed to toxics, unhealthy foods, pesticides etc. for years isn't really capable of absorbing all the B12 and other nutrients we consume. You might have noticed how sticky cheese or sugary food is, especially when heated a little? My guess is that the sticky behavior doesn't disappear after we have chewed it.

Aug 1st, 2004, 06:59 PM
"[...]vitamin B12 use by the body can be disrupted by chloroform, one of the four main trihalomethanes in chlorinated drinking water." (From http://www.garynull.com/Documents/erf/dangers_of_chlorinated_water.htm)

Most people drink water with chlorine every day, and the water most plants are watered with contain chlorine.

Re. water that is not chlorinated:

Adventist health scientist Matt Steele wondered about this for a long time. Vitamin B12 is almost the universal product of bacterial action. So it dawned on him that it might have come from natural drinking water -- which would have had many bacteria in its catchment area. He tested the water in the Yarra River near Warburton Adventist Hospital in Australia. The river water there is good drinking quality. When he tested it, he found one litre (two pints) of the water contained the Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin B12.

Nov 21st, 2004, 10:10 PM
According to http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/health_advice/facts/vitamins_which.htm and many other sources, B12 is reduced by sunlight. Don't get this wrong: the problem is NOT that the person who consumes B12 is exposed to sunlight, but that food that is stored in sunlight will have it'd B12 levels reduced. We know that plants need sunlight to grow; the problem seem to be the period of time it takes from a plant is harvested until it is bought and eaten. There are various opinions on how much B12 there is in plants, and I suspect one main reason is that very few seem to take into consideration that food that is not fresh will have less nutrients in it than fresh food. Fanatics on one side claim that there is no B12 whatsoever in plants, fanatics on the other side that B12 in plants is not a problem, because fresh, organic food is full of nutrients. But how many of us eat really fresh food?

The heating process during canning destroys from one-third to one-half of vitamins A and C, riboflavin, and thiamin. For every year the food is stored, canned food loses an additional 5 to 20% of these vitamins. However, the amounts of other vitamins are only slightly lower in canned food than in fresh food.
Most produce will begin to lose some of its nutrients when harvested. When produce is handled properly and canned quickly after harvest, it can be more nutritious than fresh produce sold in stores.
When refrigerated, fresh produce will lose half or more of some of its vitamins within 1 to 2 weeks. If it's not kept chilled or preserved, nearly half of the vitamins may be lost within a few days of harvesting. For optimum nutrition, it is generally recommended that a person eat a variety of foods.

SOURCE: FDA/CFSAN Food Safety A to Z Reference Guide, Sept 2001

Since light destroys B12 and probably other vitamins (after the plant has been harvested), one reason that keeping things in the fridge could be useful is that it's dark in there. Vitamin pills are normally stored in light proof jars, but plants, that seem to start to loose their vitamin content as soon as they are picked, are often exposed to a lot of light before they are eaten...

Nov 21st, 2004, 10:26 PM
From http://www.questhealthlibrary.com/vitamins/b12

Vitamin B12 is freely soluble and therefore lost into cooking water. It is sensitive to strong acid, alkali and light.

From http://www.greathealthandwellness.com/id2.html :

If your diet consists of sugars, alcohol, overcooked veggies, pre-cooked foods and if you are stressed or take sleeping pills, you are depleting your vitamin B supply.

From http://www.internethealthlibrary.com/Health-problems/Multiple%20Sclerosis%20-%20researchDiet&Lifestyle.htm

Vitamins are easily destroyed by storage and cooking, so eat fresh fruit and vegetables as soon as possible and donêt over-cook them.

From http://www.gamerooster.com/spotlight/tonic.html

Prolonged cooking, including boiling of cow's milk, destroys B12.

From http://www.satyamag.com/june03/cousens.html

According to the Max Plank Institute in Germany, you lose 50 percent of the protein, up to 70 or 80 percent of your vitamins, pretty much 100 percent of your phyto-nutrients, and up to 96 percent of your B12.

From http://www.acne-advice.com/diet/vitamins_minerals.shtml

B vitamins are very unstable at high temperatures, try to eat these foods raw, or only lightly cooked

From http://www.sare.org/htdocs/hypermail/html-home/41-html/0217.html

It is the only known nutrient which contains the trace element cobalt. When exposed to light, oxygen or acidic or alkaline conditions, it slowly looses its vitamin properties. On the other hand, it is relatively
heat-resistent. The average loss as a result of cooking, for example, is said to be about 12%.

http://www.nutritionfocus.com/nutrition_supplementation/vitamins/vitamin_b12.html :
Vitamin B12, a member of the B-complex vitamins, is a water-soluble vitamin that is stable to heat. It slowly loses its activity when exposed to light, oxygen, and acid or alkali environments. Loss of activity from cooking is approximately 70%. The main cobalamins in humans and animals are hydroxocobalamins, adenosylcobalamin, and methylcobalamin, the last two being the active coenzyme forms. Cyanocobalamin is widely used clinically, because of its availability and stability, and is transformed into the active factors in the body. Vitamin B12 is produced commercially from bacterial fermentation.

http://www.isn.net/~deighanj/v&m-pag2.html :

The vitamin is relatively stable in heat and light, normal cooking tempuratures do not destroy significant quantities of it.

However, tempuratures sufficient to sterilize and not merely pasteurize milk products may deplete milk of up to 70% of its vitamin B12.Therefore, the practice of sterilizing milk for baby's consumption by boiling bottles of it at 119 degrees C for 13 minutes (versus using commercially prepared, enriched, formulas and gently warming before feeding) could result in vitamin B12 deficiency if that overprocessed milk were the sole (or a major) nutritional source of the baby's diet.

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=107 :

How do cooking, storage, or processing affect vitamin B-12?
When derived from animal foods, vitamin B-12 is fairly well preserved under most cooking conditions. For example, about 70% of the vitamin B-12 present in beef is retained after broiling for 45 minutes at 350º Fahrenheit. Similarly, about 70% of B-12 is still present after cow's milk is boiled for 2-5 minutes. Retention of vitamin B-12 in plant-based foods like tempeh, a fermented food made from soy, has not been well researched

Nov 21st, 2004, 10:56 PM
In addition to exposure to sunlight, there are many indications that the time that passes from a plant is harvested until it is eaten in itself will reduce the level of nutrients in it (independent if exposure to light).

In an article I just found discussing canned food, I read that

Canning is a useful way to preserve vitamins, as concentrations of some vitamins can decrease by 50% within the first 7 days after harvest when stored at ambient temperatures.( http://www.nutrition.org.uk/home.asp?siteId=43&sectionId=435&subSectionId=323&parentSection=299&which=1 )

Some of this loss could of course be due to the food being exposed to light, as mentioned above.

Part of the problem with canning (even if this is not a black/white situation) is that
1) ...the food is pre-cooked (if it is going to be cooked anyway, this part is less important, but being cooked twice instead of once sounds like increasing the risk of losing nutrients to me),
2) ...it is stored for quite a while. This is also true for some plants (ie. dried pulses) even when not canned. To me, it seems like that it's more likely that you will consume more 'old' food if you eat a lot of canned food
3) We don't know for sure if the plants were canned immediately after being harvested. For example, the beans might have been dried first, then been cooked, and then stored for a while.

We have a thread discussing fresh/vs. canned food
here. (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=20069#post20069)

Dec 5th, 2004, 04:15 PM
2) Using microwave owens might be the worst thing you can do to your food. Please check this. (http://veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=203)

A little more on how cooking and microwaving destroys B12:

Microwaves bedevil a B vitamin - research indicates overcooking and microwaving meat and dairy foods inactivate vitamin B12 - Brief Article
Science News, Feb 14, 1998 by Janet Raloff

Diets containing ample vitamin [B.sub.12], also known as cobalamin, not only help prevent pernicious anemia, they may also lower heart disease risk by reducing concentrations of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. A new study now suggests that to preserve the integrity of this vitamin, chefs should avoid overcooking meats and dairy foods--a major source of cobalamin--especially in a microwave oven.

Fumio Watanabe of Kochi (Japan) Women's University and his colleagues tested 100-gram samples of milk or liquid emulsions made by mixing 10 grams of raw beef or pork with 50 milliliters of water. Heating each sample for 6 minutes in a microwave oven inactivated 30 to 40 percent of the [B.sub.12], that had been present, the scientists report in the January Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

The milk reached a boiling temperature after about 1 minute and steadily lost [B.sub.12], thereafter. Conventional boiling can also inactivate milk's [B.sub.12] though more slowly. It took about 25 minutes of regular boiling to inactivate as much of a milk sample's [B.sub.12] as microwaving achieved in 6 minutes. Acknowledging that the 6-minute microwave cycle would be considered "lengthy" for the reheating of refrigerated foods, Watanabe notes that such a period wouldn't be unusual for stewing meats or vegetables, steaming chicken, or preparing curries.

( http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1200/is_n7_v153/ai_20346932 )

Dec 5th, 2004, 04:22 PM
Consumption of unfermented soy foods increases the body's need for vitamin B12. Phytic acid (or phytates) is an organic acid present in the hull of all grains and beans. Phytates are known as 'anti-nutrients'. (I love that word.) They chelate, or bind, to calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, zinc and Vitamin B12 in our intestinal tracts blocking their absorption. Soybeans have the highest phytate content of any studied legume. Unlike with other beans and grains, the phytate level in soybeans is not neutralized by soaking and cooking.


Dec 13th, 2004, 08:27 AM
Just being around cars seems to be a potential source of B12 deficiency. Look here. (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2212)

Dec 13th, 2004, 10:38 AM
According to various sources, the existence of so called B12 analogues (molecules that appear to be true, active absorbable B12, but isn't), will prohibit the absorption of real B12 in the same meal. Others claim that that the digestive systems healthy human beings are able to distinguish between 'true' and 'false' B12.

Normally food contains both true and false B12.
IF it is correct that B12 analogues found in plants will actually reduce the intake of true B12, and if it would have been true that meat, supplements and fortified food only contains 'true' B12 while plants only contain B12 analogues, eating plants containing B12 analogues would be really harmful, because they would reduce the overall B12 intake. Some people insist that this is the case. It is often the same people who claim that plants only contain B12 analogues that recommend fortified food and supplements.

As you can write about here (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=38), 20-90% of the B12 in multivitamin supplements is present as B12 analogues. And as you can read about here (http://veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=317), you'll find a lot of B12 analogues not only in B12 fortified food, but also in typical non-vegan meals:

'Studies of normal patients with no stores of cobalamin have shown that only 1 microgram per day is required to quickly reverse early pernicious anemia. A dramatic increase in young red blood cells and reticulocytes and a rise to normal hemoglobin and hematocrit was observed within days. The minimum daily requirement (MDR) for cobalamin appears to be even lower, 0.2-0.25 micrograms per day absorbed from food is adequate for normal people (Herbert 1987). It has been found that a significant percentage of the activity in 'B-12 enriched' foods are inactive analogs. Hamburger, cottage cheese and boiled eggs averaged about 10% analogs while milk products (whole, evaporated, nonfat) averaged about 30%, whereas nearly 100% is inactive from tempeh. A typical 'VA lunch' consisting of potato soup, cottage cheese, lettuce, peaches, crackers, butter and milk was analyzed and found to contain 40% inactive analogs (Herbert 1984b). This is not a problem for normal people, as it has been established that inactive B-12 analogs exist in human liver, red blood cells, brain and mineral and vitamin supplements (Kanazawa 1983, Herbert 1982). Normal humans are able to discriminate between the active and non-active forms as both have always been in nature and in foods.'

And here comes the interesting part:
If you decide that you do believe that plants are always unreliable sources of B12 because of the B12 analogue issue (don't forget that thousands of types of plants never have been tested for B12), then the B12 analogues are the problem, not the plants, right? And if existence of B12 in itself is a problem, and if it is true that the appearance of B12 analogues in your meal will cause the real B12 not to be absorbed, then why would you
a) eat multivitamin supplements, which also contain B12 analogues?
b) eat B12 fortified food, which also contain B12 analogues?
c) eat a standard non-vegan diet instead, which also contains plenty of B12 analogues?

To sum it up: for those of you that decide that the existence of B12 analogues is prohibiting true B12 from being absorbed, you should include two new items to the list of possible ways to become B12 deficient:

16) Eating multivitamin pills
17) Eating B12 fortified food


Dec 13th, 2004, 11:14 AM
Some people seem to suggest that one should follow the idea that the mere existence of B12 analogues in food will prohibit absorption of true B12, and that all such food therefore should be avoided. B12 analogues exist in vegan and non-vegan food, in multivitamins, and in B12 fortified food. Here's a list of plants that may (or may not) contain B12 analogues - and there are more to come:

Broad Beans
Concord grapes
Lamb's quarters
Chickweed (starweed)
Aloe Vera
Prickly Pear Cactus
Sea buckthorn
Barley grass juice
Sprout chick peas
Batabata-cha tea
Dong Quai
Various algae
Various mushroons
Bark from some trees

Since I guess natural drinking water from streams also is reported as containing B12, I suspect a certain person on a certain website to claim that 'Unless natural drinking water is eventually shown to lower MMA levels, it should not be considered a source of active B12.'. ;)

Here comes the other interesting part of this 'logic': If food or water contains B12 but does not lower the homocysteine levels, and true B12 does reduce homocysteine levels, the explanation seem to be that the B12 is only a B12 analogue. But if it also true that the mere existence of B12 analogues prohibit true B12 from being absorbed, and that fresh plants and natural drinking water contain B12, and this B12 is not 'true', but 'analogue', we should really feel sorry for mankind, who has been eating fresh plants and drinking water from streams, containing B12 analogues for thousands of years. Poor guys, who didn't have all the chemicals we now have, that would kill the analogue bastards properly.

Jan 20th, 2005, 08:14 AM
19) "In a joint article in the December 1995 issue of Heavy Metal Bulletin by Dr Ahlrot-Westerlund and Editor, Monica Kauppi, they explain that the presence of heavy metals can reduce the uptake of vitamin B12. "The transport of vitamin B12 to the brain can be disturbed or interrupted by heavy metals such as mercury, which affects the blood-brain barrier by causing leakage and hampering the active transport of nutrients."

More here: http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?p=570#post570

Jan 20th, 2005, 08:28 AM
More info here: http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2008

In short: B12 needs calcium for absorption, and according to at least one study*, vegans (who eat unbalanced vegan food; calcium is not difficult to get from vegan sources) are often low in calcium. Heavy metals in the water are believed to prevent the absorption of calcium, in addition to disturbing the B12 transport directly.

*Vegans low in three nutrients, meat eaters in seven (http://veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=27)

Feb 6th, 2005, 11:33 AM
According to this (http://www.mercola.com/article/irradiated/nuclear_lunch.htm) and several other sources, food irradiation destroys B12:

"In addition, irradiation destroys essential vitamins, including vitamin A, thiamin, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, C, E, and K; amino acid and essential polyunsaturated fatty acid content may also be affected. A 20 to 80 percent loss of any of these is not uncommon."

Food irradiation may not be very widespread yet, but ie. potatoes are already being irradiated in USA, they have tried it on strawberries in Florida, and tropical fruits have been mentioned in this (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2127&highlight=food) thread...

As an example of what food irradiation can do with vitamins, here's some info from http://www.organicconsumers.org/Irrad/073003_irradiation.cfm

For example, 91 percent of vitamin B6 in irradiated beef stored for 15 months and 33 percent of vitamin B12 in meat can be lost due to irradiation.[5],[6]

We surely don't eat beef, but I can imagine that nutrients in plants are at least as vulnerable...

Feb 6th, 2005, 11:52 AM
According to sources (http://www.veteransparty.us/Weekly.htm) Dioxin disturbs B12 absorption:
"These secondary symptoms are neuropathy, joint damages, chronic fatigue, B12, B6, B1 and E wasting.* Also premature bone wasting and damage, along with autoimmunity, etc.* EPA has suggested a B12, B6 and E issue with dioxin that your body, [b]no matter how much you have - you can no longer absorb these essential minerals and vitamins in your cell building processes.[/n]* Long-term damage is serious stuff."

Feb 6th, 2005, 12:03 PM
Here is a sad one. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for breastfeeding even if minuscule amounts of toxic chemicals, but in the quote below, you'll see several names that also appears in lists over chemicals that are known to disturb B12 absorption.


The New York Times > Magazine > First Person: Toxic Breast Milk?:
If human breast milk came stamped with an ingredients label, it might read something like this: 4 percent fat, vitamins A, C, E and K, lactose, essential minerals, growth hormones, proteins, enzymes and antibodies. In a healthy woman, it contains 100 percent of virtually everything a baby needs to survive, plus a solid hedge of extras to help ward off a lifetime of diseases like diabetes and cancer. Breast milk helps disarm salmonella and E. coli. Its unique recipe of fatty acids boosts brain growth and results in babies with higher I.Q.'s than their formula-slurping counterparts. Nursing babies suffer from fewer infections, hospitalizations and cases of sudden infant death syndrome. For the mother, too, breast-feeding and its delicate plumbing of hormones afford protection against breast and ovarian cancers and stress. Despite exhaustion, the in-laws and dirty laundry, every time we nurse our babies, the love hormone oxytocin courses out of our pituitaries like a warm bath. Human milk is like ice cream, Valium and Ecstasy all wrapped up in two pretty packages.

But read down the label, and the fine print, at least for some women, sounds considerably less appetizing: DDT (the banned but stubbornly persistent pesticide famous for nearly wiping out the bald eagle), PCB's, dioxin, trichloroethylene, perchlorate, mercury, lead, benzene, arsenic. When we nurse our babies, we feed them not only the fats, sugars and proteins that fire their immune systems, metabolisms and cerebral synapses. We also feed them, albeit in minuscule amounts, paint thinners, dry-cleaning fluids, wood preservatives, toilet deodorizers, cosmetic additives, gasoline byproducts, rocket fuel, termite poisons, fungicides and flame retardants.

Feb 6th, 2005, 01:41 PM
Thanks Korn,
I appreciate your articles on B12. I have learned so much reading them. :)

This article has been circulating for a few years and it is important that moms are made aware of this. Dia Michel’s (http://www.platypusbooks.com/main_about.html) writes about this in one of her books, Milk, Money, and Madness. I had the opportunity to meet and chat with her for quite a while at the Annual Breastfeeding Convention last year. Here is an article (http://www.lalecheleague.org/llleaderweb/LV/LVMayJun94p37.html) that talks about this issue.
It is also important to note the information in regards to vegetarian mothers (http://www.organicconsumers.org/toxic/breastpest.cfm).

Pesticides in Breastmilk: The Good News for Vegetarians

Vegetarian Voice Spring 2001 <www.navs-online.org

Remember those ads from the 1950s featuring thriving, chubby-faced
babies sucking on bottles of formula? You've probably seen them,
because those ads do, of course, still exist. But now there's a
difference: today, medical professionals and nutritionists are adamant
that breastmilk is best.

But over the past year, discussions on the topic of pesticides in
breastmilk have left some mothers questioning the safety of their

Fortunately, there is a way for women to minimize the levels of
pesticides in their breastmilk - they can go vegetarian, or better
yet, vegan. As described by Virginia Messina, PhD and Mark Messina,
MPH, RD in the Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets, studies of
vegetarians show lower breastmilk levels of the pesticides DDT,
chlordane, heptachlor, and dieldrin, and industrial compounds or
byproducts, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and
polychlorinated dibenzodiozins.

This is hardly new information: it's been known for years. One study
published twenty years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine
found that in an analysis of breastmilk from a sample of vegans, the
levels of 17 chemicals were markedly lower than in the general

Another study from nearly a decade ago, published in the European
Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that frequency of consumption of
meat, dairy, and fish was directly related to [breast] milk

Also, in the mid 1970s, the EPA analyzed the breastmilk of vegetarian
women and found the levels of pesticides to be far less than average.

In 1992, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical
Nutrition found that meat and dairy products strongly contribute to
breastmilk concentrations of dieldrin and PCBs. This same study also
found that fish consumption leads to PCB contamination. This may be
why Japanese mothers have such high levels of dioxin in their milk,
according to Carol Huotari of La Leche League International. Huotari,
who heads the Center for Breastfeeding Information at LLL, points out
that while Japanese women eat much less dairy and meat than Americans,
they do consume more fish.

How does eating animal-based foods lead to increased breastmilk
contamination levels? Pesticides are stored in body fat. So, when
women eat animal (including fish) flesh, they also absorb the
pesticides consumed by that animal. Women, in turn, store those
pesticides in their body fat, then pass them along to their nursing
infants through their breastmilk. Remember, even a skinless chicken
breast contains over six grams of body fat.

Likewise, dairy cows release much of their stored pesticides in their
"uddermilk." So, consuming dairy products also leads to an increase
in one's own pesticide stores.

Plant foods, on the other hand, don't bioaccumulate, or store
pesticides. On average, a pound of apples - even apples that are not
organic - will have nowhere near the levels of pesticides as found in
a pound of chicken flesh. Of course, it goes without saying that a
pound of organic apples wont have any pesticides at all.

Pesticides made headlines across the nation this past year with the
Environmental Protection Agency condemning and phasing out two popular
pesticides for home and garden use due to the potential health risks
they pose.

This and other pesticide-related issues are causing more and more
parents, including actress Jane Seymour, to warn others about the
potential health risks children face from exposure to potentially
dangerous pesticides. "As parents, we want to do everything we can to
protect our kids, but there is an incredible void of simple
information to guide parents to better choices," says Seymour.

Put aptly by John Robbins in his historical book Diet for a New
America, "women, and even little girls, who think they may wish to
have and breastfeed a baby in the future would do well to realize that
the diet they eat today will greatly affect the health of their

The bottom line, however, even for non-vegetarians, is to choose
breastfeeding over formula feeding - except in extreme and rare cases.
As Robbins states, human breastmilk is nutritionally and vastly
superior for a human infant to any cow's milk formula, formulas are
also likely to be contaminated with toxic chemicals, human breastmilk
contains antibodies which are crucial for the newborn, and
breastfeeding provides the bonding and emotional nurturance which are
tremendously important to the well-being of both mother and baby.
There was a study done on various infant formulas a few years ago and some contained a high amount of pesticides. It might be in Dia Michels book. I will have to read through her book again.

I have read conflicting information in regards to B12/breastfeeding. I recently read about studies in vegetarian breastfeeding moms who ate whole foods there babies did not have a problem with B12 deficiency. I can’t remember how long the researchers followed the children. I need to hunt for that article. I read so much on health/nutrition on a daily basis I tend to forget the sources at times.

I think it is important to eliminate as many chemicals as possible from your lifestyle. If possible always buy organic. If you have space (and time) where you live plant a few vegetables/fruit.

Feb 9th, 2005, 11:19 AM
Thanks, Opal!


B12 (cobalamin) contains cobalt, and there are many studies that document that our planet is in bad shape. Dan Reeter has been documenting that wity special attention to cobalt:

Investigating soil-cobalt links, we sought perspectives of two researchers: an expert in agricultural chemistry, another in nutrition. Dan Reeter, chief researcher at Bio-Systems Labs in Salida, Colorado, is creating one of the world's most comprehensive computer facilities for soil biology testing. Reeter, whose lab has served agricultural industry for over 40 years, told us: "I can say with certainty there's a decline of soil cobalt. Confirm this for yourself. Simply to pick any Ag magazine—they all push cobalt supplements, spurred by B12-poor condition of crops."

Asked if current research suggests an across-the-board decline in B12 due to soil demineralization, Robert Kay, PhD candidate in nutrition at the Univ. of Connecticut responded, "It's complex to study, and probably premature to make hard conclusions. But subjectively—yes, I have a sneaking suspicion that speculation is valid."

Others have mentioned that the soil we use to grow plants in is both exposed to acid rain, pesticides and chlorinated water - all known to destroy B12.