View Full Version : Nutrient deficiencies more common in meat eaters than in vegans?

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Apr 22nd, 2004, 12:17 PM
Dave Eastman Posted: Apr 1 2004, 06:21 PM

The latest data on the dietary intakes of vegans was just published last month.[1] The diets of about 100 vegans were recorded for a week and were found deficient in calcium, iodine and vitamin B12. Using the same standards, though, the standard American diet are deficient in 7 nutrients! The diet of your average American is not only also deficient in calcium and iodine, it's deficient in vitamin C, vitamin E, fiber, folate, and magnesium as well.[2]

Not only does the American public have over twice as many nutritional deficiencies in their diets, vegans were shown to have higher intakes of 16 out of the 19 nutrients studied, includeing calcium. The vegans were getting more than enough protein on average and three times more vitamin C, three times more vitamin E, three times more fiber. Vegans got twice the folate, twice the magnesium, twice the copper, twice the manganese.

And of course the vegans had twice the fruit and vegetable intake and half the saturated fat intake, meeting the new 2003 World Health Organization guidelines for fat intake and weight control.[3] Almost 2/3 of Americans are overweight.[4] In contrast, only 11% of the vegans were overweight. Almost one in three Americans are obese.[4] Zero of the 98 vegans in this study were obese.

So when a meateater asks you "Where you get your B12?" You can counter with "Where do you get your vitamin C, vitamin E, fiber, folate, and magnesium? And while you're at it, you can ask them how they keep their sodium, saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol intake under control (not to mention their weight).[5]


[1] Results from the German Vegan Study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 57(August 2003):947.
[2] USDA. Food and Nutrient Intakes by Individuals in the United States, by Region, 1994-96.
[3] World Health Organization Technical Report Series 916. Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. 2003.
[4] Centers for Disease Control.
[5] Then you can finally answer their question and proudly say B12 fortified foods or B12 supplements :) Of course the fact that we're seriously deficient in B12 should not be taken lightly. Evidence suggests that our low B12 intakes make be shaving literally years off of the lives of vegetarians and vegans, so make sure you get your B12!--I recommend " Vitamin B12: Are You Getting It? "

Source: http://www.veganmd.org/september2003.html

"B12 Deficiency May Be More Widespread Than Thought By Judy McBride
August 2, 2000

Nearly two-fifths of the U.S. population may be flirting with marginal vitamin B12 status if the population of Framingham, Mass., is any indication.

A careful look at 3,000 men and women in the ongoing Framingham Offspring Study found 39 percent with plasma B12 levels in the low normal range--below 258 picomoles per liter.

While this is well above the currently accepted deficiency level of 148 pmol/L, some people exhibit neurological symptoms in the higher range, said study leader Katherine Tucker. She is a nutritional epidemiologist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

Nearly 9 percent of the study population fell below the current deficiency level. And more than 16 percent fell below 185 pmol/L. ñMany people may be deficient at this level, said Tucker. There is a question as to what the clinical cutoff for deficiency should be.

ñI think there is a lot of undetected vitamin B12 deficiency out there, she said, noting that the study covered people from 26 to 83 years old. The research was funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDAÍs chief scientific agency.

B12 deficiency can cause a type of anemia marked by fewer but larger red blood cells. It can also cause walking and balance disturbances, a loss of vibration sensation, confusion, and, in advanced cases, dementia. The body requires B12 to make the protective coating surrounding the nerves, so inadequate B12 can expose nerves to damage.

The good news, said ARS administrator Floyd Horn, is that most people can improve their B12 status by eating more fortified cereals and dairy products. Dr. Tucker's findings show that these foods were nearly as effective as supplements containing B12 for getting people's blood levels above the danger zone.

Tucker and colleagues looked at B12 levels spanning the adult population because most previous studies have focused on the elderly, who were thought to be at higher risk for deficiency. The results were surprising. The youngest group--the 26- to 49-year-olds--had about the same B12 status as the oldest group--65 and up. We saw a high prevalence of low B12 even among the youngest group, Tucker said.

The researchers also expected to find some connection between dietary intake and plasma levels, even though other studies found no association. And they did find a connection. Supplement use dropped the percentage of volunteers in the danger zone--plasma B12 below 185 pmol/L--from 20 percent to 8. Eating fortified cereals five or more times a week or being among the highest third for dairy intake reduced, by nearly half, the percentage of volunteers in that zone--from 23 and 24 percent, respectively, to 12 and 13 percent.

Oddly, the researchers found no association between plasma B12 levels and meat, poultry, and fish intake, even though these foods supply the bulk of B12 in the diet. ñItÍs not because people aren't eating enough meat, Tucker said. The vitamin isnÍt getting absorbed.î

In the elderly, it's probably because they don't secrete enough stomach acid to separate the vitamin from the meat proteins that tightly bind it. But Tucker can only speculate about the reasons for poor absorption of the vitamin from meat among younger adults or why B12 appears to be better absorbed from dairy products than from meats.

Fortified cereals are a different story. Tucker said the vitamin is sprayed on during processing and is more like what we get in supplements.

Scientific contact: Katherine Tucker, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass., phone (617) 556-3351, fax (617) 556-3344, tucker@hnrc.tufts.edu."


Mar 29th, 2005, 12:09 AM
Just noticed this post - how very cool! Most omnivorous people I know supplement with something or other but they still think that a vegan is going to be worse off...*sigh*

The different industries do an effective job of encouraging everyone to think they need their products such as dairy, animal tissues and extracts; which elsewhere, are being downgraded as good foods.

May 24th, 2005, 11:10 AM
From http://www.yourhealthbase.com/vitamin_B12.html :

Vegetarians are vitamin B12 deficient
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA. It is generally assumed that vitamin B12 deficiencies are rare among people consuming a varied diet. However, there is some question whether vegetarians get enough B12 as it is not present in plants. Researchers at the Sydney Adventist Hospital have just completed a study aimed at resolving this question. Their study involved 245 Adventist ministers who were either lactoovovegetarians or vegans. The average age of the ministers was 46 years (range 22 to 80 years) and most of them had been vegetarians for over 20 years. The study participants filled out a diet questionnaire and had a fasting blood sample drawn for a 20-test biochemical profile including vitamin B12 concentrations. The mean vitamin B12 level was 199 pmol/L and 73 per cent of the ministers had a level below the recommended lower limit of 221 pmol/L. Vitamin B12 concentrations were also measured in a control group of 53 ministers who consumed fish, poultry or red meat on a regular basis. In this group 40 per cent had vitamin B12 concentrations below the recommended lower limit; this indicates that vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread even among non-vegetarians.

May 24th, 2005, 12:20 PM
From http://www.consumerreports.org/main/crh/displayc.jsp?CONTENT%3C%3Ecnt_id=368007 :

But even with an ideal diet, everyone over age 50 should consume at least 2.4 micrograms per day of supplemental vitamin B12, from either fortified foods or a modest B12 or multivitamin supplement.

May 24th, 2005, 12:21 PM
From http://www.infoaging.org/l-nutr-7-r-immune.html :

A group of researchers in Bologna, Italy, studied 62 healthy people, aged 90-106. They found that these people, although appearing well-nourished, had deficiencies in a number of micronutrients, such as selenium, zinc, vitamin B6, Vitamin E, vitamin B12, and folate.

May 24th, 2005, 02:23 PM
my mum, who is in her 50s, has been diagnosed with a B12 deficiency after experiencing numbness in her hands. she eats meat, fish and dairy on a regular basis. she suffers from type 2 diabetes and has to have B12 injections now because apparently her body can't absorb it properly anymore.

she said the first thing her doctor asked her, when discovering she had a B12 deficiency, was whether she was a vegan. :rolleyes:

May 31st, 2005, 08:39 PM
In a way, it's strange that people who eat other living beings' liver, muscles, fat and blood should be deficient in nutrients. After all, they eat the nutrient reserves other plant eating animals have built up. They even are observed eating some overcooked plants.

But meat is 'food' that already has always been eaten once. It's a very unsuccessful recycling method, because it has been proven so many times that it doesn't work they way they wish it did: They get problems both because they consume 'too little of something' and 'too much of something' at the same time.

The other explanation is a mathematical one, and obvious: If you, during one day, need/are able to consume a certain amount of food and liquids and you drink milk instead of water of fruit/plant juices, you eat meat which doesn't contain any fiber or vitamin C, you eat bacon in the morning and an omelette in the evening, and a burger in your lunch, you're simply not able to consume the plants you need in order to get enough fiber, folic acid, vitamin C, phytonutrients* and so on. Why? Because you're full, there's not more room for what you need, and you develop deficiencies. Of course, when the so called 'food' you eat often is heavy to digest, you're even less able to eat real food. Eating more of one thing simply eating less of something else, and eating meat definitely means eating less plants, because it takes so long time to digest. They develop diseases related to too low intake of anti-oxidants, enzymes, fiber and so on, in parallel with developing problems caused by too high intake of a lot of stuff they know are bad for them.

And, while chewing on that processed meat that's proven to be both unnecessary and unhealthy, they warn us against not eating it. ("If not, you might develop diseases! Deficiencies!!!)

They same people normally over-consume vitamin- and mineral killers. Their diet are to a large extent based on animals that aren't even raised on food, but on food substitutes with added supplements, or if they get real food, it is from soil with supplements of this and that. These people use the possible need for B12 supplements as an argument against living on a plant based diet (and don't seem to care at all about WHY plants, soil and water is B12 deficient).

Hundreds of millions of them are low in B12, even after having been raised on a meat based diet (many of them even take supplements. They claim to know the B12 levels in 200,000-300,000 plants that never have been tested for B12, because humans have been so obsessed with eating what we were raised with (meat) that we haven't found out much about B12 levels in most plants yet. There's a lot of eatable plant's that aren't even considered food. The ones the sells the most are often the ones that's the most easy to make money on growing, not the ones that are most beneficial for vegans or meat eaters.

Of course vegans can become ill or might develop deficiencies, just like them. There are vegans that live on junk food. We need to watch B12 (meat eaters need to watch a lot of things). Vegans even die, eventually. What are they so fanatically interested in the 'I've heard about an 80 year old guy who wasn't feeling well, and then he died due to heart failure'-kind of discussions. Guilt? Lack of knowledge? Are they expecting us to become 140 years or that our hearts should keep beating in the coffin? :)

It has been proven that a healthy vegan diet is more healthy than what they eat, but what is it that makes it so difficult for them to just accept and admit it? Smokers who keep smoking at least admit that it's not very smart!

Apropos nothing, does anyone know the origin of the word 'meathead'? :)

*Phytonutrients: Plant foods contain a variety of unique nutrients such as phytoestrogens, indoles, isothiocyanates, and flavonoids. Emerging research indicates that these nutrients may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and other degenerative diseases. (From 'The World's Healthiest Foods: Feeling Great (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=diet&dbid=6)

Jun 1st, 2005, 09:48 AM
Nearly two out of five people of all ages tested by Dr. Katherine L. Tucker had B12 levels below normal – 17% low enough to cause symptoms of deficiency. Early symptoms include memory and balance disturbances, and reduced sensation in the limbs. More serious ones include severe nerve damage and dementia. Although vitamin B12 is obtained from meat, it's not well absorbed through digestion, so supplementation is the best way to prevent B12 deficiency. (This is from a non-vegan site: http://www.fi.edu/brain/micro.htm )

Jun 3rd, 2005, 06:47 PM
Fiber common deficiency among non-vegans:


Fiber, the indigestible plant cell walls present in whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, is essential to healthy digestion and overall good health. Fiber is the part of plants and vegetables usually lost in processing. Fiber deficiencies are associated with numerous illnesses:





varicose veins




irritable bowel


colon cancer

high blood pressure

high cholesterol.

Long-lived cultures always eat a diet that is high in fiber. A minimum daily intake of fiber is 20 grams, and 40+ grams is felt to be healthier. The S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) contains less than 10 grams of fiber per day. Fiber supplementation is a wise health choice for anyone consuming less than 20 grams of fiber per day.

Jun 3rd, 2005, 07:22 PM
The typical Western diet often supplies less than adequate amounts of several essential vitamins and minerals. Pao EM, Mickle SJ. Problem nutrients in the United States. Food Technology 1981;35:58–79.

Recent nutrition surveys in the U.S. have found large numbers of people consume too little calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and, possibly, copper and manganese. Pennington JA, Young BE, Wilson DB. Nutritional elements in U.S. diets: results from the Total Diet Study, 1982 to 1986. J Am Diet Assoc 1989;89:659–64. and Pennington JA. Intakes of minerals from diets and foods: is there a need for concern? J Nutr 1996;126(9 Suppl):2304S–8S.

The statistics from NFCS and NHANES tell much about the diets and state of the nutritional health of the population. They make possible the monitoring of the dietary status of the American population to identify populations at risk, problem nutrients, food and eating patterns, and diet determinants. They have shown that many American diets do not meet desired dietary standards [14]: many are short of recommended levels for certain nutrients such as calcium, iron, zinc, and folacin, some are short in vitamins A and C, and many exceed moderate levels of fat, sodium, and added caloric sweeteners. Read a lot more here: http://www.unu.edu/unupress/unupbooks/80633e/80633E0a.htm

Jun 3rd, 2005, 08:36 PM
I can say from my own experience that I was more deficient as a vegetarian than I am as a vegan.

I keep tracking my diet in www.fitday.com and always was deficient in calcium, zinc, magnesium, B12 (all severely), K, E and D.

Now as a vegan, I am deficient in calcium (just), zinc, B12 (severely), K and D. Not bad, eh?


Jun 4th, 2005, 02:34 AM
I can't imagine eating a fiber supplement! :D It just got to be the easiest thing to make sure one get fiber in the diet. Some more veggies, multigrain, cereals, and bread should do the trick, no?

Jun 16th, 2005, 10:21 AM
I can't imagine eating a fiber supplement! :D It just got to be the easiest thing to make sure one get fiber in the diet. Some more veggies, multigrain, cereals, and bread should do the trick, no?

The fiber supplement suggestion wasn't meant for vegans, who eat a lot of fibers, but of course, I agree that it's better for them to reduce the intake of animal products and increase the intake of plants. The question is if it's possible at all to create a balanced diet using animal products; for example are 2 out of 5 people living on a standard diet low in B12, if they should reduce the intake of animal products drastically, in order to get enough fiber, their B12 levels would decrease even more, because of all the B12 killers they are exposed to.

Every time a non-vegan eats an animal product (which doesn't contain any fiber), his belly is filled up with 'food' that leaves less room for plants (which contain fiber). Fiber deficiency is common among non-vegans. Dietary fiber is only found in plant foods, not even eggshells contain fiber.

All land plants (that are eaten for food) contain fiber.

This page contains a list of foods ranked by their fiber density:


According to this (http://www.noni-juice-distributor.us/product/fiber.htm) site, 'the dietary fiber consumption of the average American is only one-fifth of what is was one hundred years ago. Many researchers believe that fiber deficiency is directly linked with the rise of chronic health problems in America. While the US Government recommends 25-30 grams of fiber per day, and many doctor's recommend 50 to 60 grams per day, the average American consumes just 10 grams per day.'

Jun 23rd, 2005, 09:34 AM
According to this (http://www.ovarian-cysts-pcos.com/supplements-health.html) link, 34% of all meat eaters are B12 deficient:

A large body of research has demonstrated that most Americans are not getting what they need from their diet. For example, in one recent U.S. Dept. of Agriculture survey of 20,000 people, not a single person was consuming adequate levels of all the vitamins and minerals. In this study, the percentage of Americans were found to be deficient as follows: 90% in vit. B6, 75% in magnesium, 68% in calcium, 57% in iron, 50% in vitamin A, 45% in vitamin B1, 41% in vitamin C, 34% in vitamin B2 ...and the list goes on.

There are literally hundreds of medical studies to suggest it’s a virtual certainty that you and every member of your family are deficient in one or more essential nutrients.

sheri beri
Jun 15th, 2006, 07:18 AM
i have found it interesting that so many meat eaters are anemic.......I have heard so manytimes how meat is such a great source of iron...hmmm

Jun 15th, 2006, 07:17 PM
I was never able to give blood (due to iron deficiency) until I became a vegan. As a vegetarian, it was always assumed that the iron deficiency was from being vegetarian and not eating enough animal protein. Now that I'm vegan, I know that that isn't true--I'm better-fortified than I've ever been without making significant changes in supplement intake!

Jul 3rd, 2006, 12:16 AM
i have found it interesting that so many meat eaters are anemic.

They also suffer more from dementia.

From PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=8327020&query_hl=2):

We investigated the relationship between animal product consumption and evidence of dementia in two cohort substudies. The first enrolled 272 California residents matched for age, sex, and zip code (1 vegan, 1 lacto-ovo-vegetarian, and 2 'heavy' meat eaters in each of 68 quartets). This design ensured a wide range of dietary exposure. The second included 2,984 unmatched subjects who resided within the Loma Linda, California area. All subjects were enrolled in the Adventist Health Study. The matched subjects who ate meat (including poultry and fish) were more than twice as likely to become demented as their vegetarian counterparts (relative risk 2.18, p = 0.065) and the discrepancy was further widened (relative risk 2.99, p = 0.048) when past meat consumption was taken into account. There was no significant difference in the incidence of dementia in the vegetarian versus meat-eating unmatched subjects. There was no obvious explanation for the difference between the two substudies, although the power of the unmatched sub-study to detect an effect of 'heavy' meat consumption was unexpectedly limited. There was a trend towards delayed onset of dementia in vegetarians in both substudies.

Sep 8th, 2006, 11:41 AM
Here's some more info related to nutrient deficiency among non-vegans:

From http://1stholistic.com/Nutrition/hol_nutr-deficiency.htm

For example, in a 30-month study of 800 patients in two U.S. hospitals, who were admitted for conditions not normally associated with malnutrition (pneumonia, hip fracture, etc.), blood tests found 55% to be malnourished. The malnourished surgical patients stayed in the hospital an average of five days longer than the adequately nourished patients.

In a study of 402 elderly Europeans living at home, the nutrient content of their diet was found to be low: folic acid intake was low in 100% of those studied, zinc in 87%, vitamin B6 in 83%, and vitamin D in 62%.

Sep 8th, 2006, 11:46 AM
This list from http://www.energywave.com/about-vitamins-minerals-herbs/Common-Nutrient-Deficiencies.htm shows that a lot of people are deficient in a lot of nutrients (this is not a study on vegans)...:

Vitamin B6: 80% are deficient.
Magnesium: 75% are deficient
Calcium: 68%
Iron : 57%
Vitamin A: 50%
Thiamine (B1): 45%
Vitamin C: 41%
Vitamin B12: 34%
Riboflavin (B2): 34%
Niacin: 33%
Phosphorus: 27%

Sep 9th, 2006, 07:06 AM
I wonder on what they base the idea of what is ideal or a minimum below which things are counted as a deficiency?

If it is an average of what can be found in a very large population - then that is going to be based on what people of an omnivorous diet are getting. I would assume that they would use and average of what is considered healthy - based upon another average - so it would be curious to compare the averages for vegans once a standardised vegan level was found.

From a group of 30 vegans involved in an omega 3 study the definitie answer to a standard vegan diet was; there is no such thing. There was very little common amongst the diets of the participants! A larger study would be necessary.

The China Study is one of those studies teasing out the ideas of what are minimum levels of things like cholesterol - which were much lower than the accepted western levels of healthy - yet the people were not showing signs on deficiency ailments.

Nutrition science still has a long way to go.

Dec 8th, 2006, 11:12 AM
When articles and studies describe B12 deficiencies among non-vegans, which this thread is about, they are often based on blood serum testing, and not on a complete test of B12, MMA and homocysteine levels. Testing serum levels alone may give a false impression of the actual levels of active B12 in the blood stream. I've recently read that the study showing that 39% of 3000 tested objects were B12 deficient or in the low, normal range was based in testing B12 levels in blood only, so the real numbers were most likely higher.

Vegans don't want to give a false impression about how healthy we are, so normally make sure that MMA and homocysteine levels are taken into consideration when test B12 levels - but for a realistic comparison with levels among non-vegans, the same standards should of course apply to tests performed on non-vegans as well. Some sources that inform about vegan nutrition are very good at reminding us that inactive B12 analogues in plant foods may compromise the accuracy of traditional methods for measuring B12 levels, but fail to mention that B12 tests performed on meat eaters normally are not using the same high standards we prefer to use when discussing the real B12 levels among vegans.

There's more info about B12 analogues in animal products in this thread:
B12 analogues in multivitamins, animal foods and spirulina (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=317)

Dec 8th, 2006, 03:39 PM
I'm worried about this actually, Korn; I recently got blood tests done but they only did what I presume to be the blood serum level, not MMA and homocysteine. The level was excellent, exceeding the therapeutic range, but as I understand it we need these three tests - blood serum, MMA and homocysteine, is that right?

Dec 8th, 2006, 04:02 PM
From what I've heard, taking all three tests is recommended, especially if the B12 test itself shows low results or if you expect your levels to be low.

Dec 8th, 2006, 04:11 PM
Why would you expect B12 low results? Soy is a B12 cookbook in itself... I mean soy is a natural carrier of B12,

Dec 8th, 2006, 06:24 PM
Why would you expect B12 low results? Soy is a B12 cookbook in itself... I mean soy is a natural carrier of B12,

Yes, B12 has been measured in soy beans (look here (http://www.veganforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=255&highlight=mozafar)), but that doesn't mean that soy always is a reliable source, that all vegans eat soy, that the B12 is soy (always) is bioavailable, that the amount of B12 in soy beans is providing enough B12 or that all soy products contain B12! :)