Dave Eastman Posted: Apr 1 2004, 06:21 PM
The latest data on the dietary intakes of vegans was just published last month. 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.
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. Almost 2/3 of Americans are overweight. In contrast, only 11% of the vegans were overweight. Almost one in three Americans are obese. 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).
 Results from the German Vegan Study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 57(August 2003):947.
 USDA. Food and Nutrient Intakes by Individuals in the United States, by Region, 1994-96.
 World Health Organization Technical Report Series 916. Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases. 2003.
 Centers for Disease Control.
 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? "
"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. ńMany people may be deficient at this level, said Tucker. There is a question as to what the clinical cutoff for deficiency should be.
ńI 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. ńItÍs 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, firstname.lastname@example.org."