View Poll Results: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

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Thread: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

  1. #1
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    Here's something I just wrote in another thread - and a poll. Please vote!

    1) Reliable B12 info sources. They refer to veganhealth.org and related sites as a good source for info. This is confusing. While they agree with veganhealth.org that more studies are needed on possible vegan B12 sources, they disagree (at least publicly, currently) with the owner of veganhealth.org in a couple of essential topics like how much B12 we need and what the best way to test B12 in humans is.

    2) Best B12 markers. They claim that the homocysteine test is the best way to test active B12 levels in humans bodies, and fail to mention that many experts disagree. Many insist that MMA tests - although they are also still being discussed - are more reliable, and some claim that a MMA test currently is the only test that should be relied upon as a B12 marker. Homocysteine can be influenced by much more than just B12, and is therefore disputable as a reliable B12 marker. But this isn't really about who is right and who is wrong: it's about letting their readers know that most experts insist that there is too little research on this, and that they only represent one of several, possible ways to look at B12/Hcy situation.

    3) Treating symptoms? We know that taking vitamin supplements will lower homocysteine levels in the body, and that's not at all a bad thing - sometimes that's all a human needs. But there's an ongoing discussion - especially related to heart disease - if reducing the homocysteine levels as such will make us 'safe', and solve problems associated with high homocysteine levels. Maybe high Hcy sometimes is a symptom, and not a cause. Vegan Society's literature can create a false impression that as long as the Hcy levels go down, we should be happy - but - particularly when it comes to heart disease - there's a lot more to it than this.

    4) Many ways to lower homocysteine. They definitely fail to emphasize the many nutrients and other factors which may be used to lower homocysteine levels. There are many ways to deal with high homocysteine levels in the body, but a small group of people sticks out in this discussion, and present B12 as some kind of wonder pill. To avoid solutions that may be false 'cure all' methods is important - and not only when it comes to heart disease. Unfortunately, some of Vegan Society's info can be categorized in the relatively small 'wonder pill' group. All vegans deserve to get more info about the other ways to deal with high homocysteine, especially in literature for vegans about homocysteine.

    5) Cancer. Even if they won't, for some reason, focus on that many of the health problems associated with high-B12 diets, or that these problems actually may be associated with exactly that: the high B12 levels, they should IMO definitely mention the link between high B12 and prostate and esophageal cancer.

    6) Be honest about disagreements about the homocysteine theory/studies - or tell people openly that they possibly could be wrong and that more research is needed. The homocysteine theory they promote, was considered controversial when it was presented - and not something commonly agreed upon when they published their book either. Although a number of new reports now suggest that the theory doesn't hold water, more research is needed. Some of the newest reports that more or less declare the heart/Hcy theory dead, but these studies may need to be verified as well. More studies will come, but if something is a little on the controversial side, they should let people know. If they inform about these disagreements, they are also more 'safe' if it shows up that their info is wrong.

    7) Fail to inform about the disagreement re. B12 in some plants. It doesn't help their own cause to not mention that there are well respected sources out there who insist that useful B12 can be found in some plants. They don't need to even agree in these people's conclusions, but if they fail to properly mention that there may be reliable, plant based B12 sources out there, they push people away. If it shows up that these researchers are right - they have pushed people away for no valid reason at all.

    8) They even disagree with themselves about B12 and plants. They claim on their site that they know that there are no reliable plant sources of B12 - which should suggest that no further studies are needed. In their book they write something else. This is confusing for their readers. And when they write that vegans generally get enough B12 to avoid anemia, they don't talk about vegans who take supplements. If vegans generally would get enough B12 to avoid anemia - where do they get it from? Are they refering to eg. these studies, when they discuss B12 sources in vegan food? More clarity would be good, and they shouldn't write that most vegans get enough B12 to avoid anemia without documenting it - which I doubt they can, since I don't think sufficient studies exist.

    9) 3 mcg enough? Many also ask why they write "Alternatively a supplement can be provided. Daily amount: 3 micrograms" if they think that a daily 3 mcg B12 tablet isn't a good solution. Their book also suggests 3 mcg daily. There's no link in this text to other info suggesting that they think we should take multiple 3 mcg pills daily.
    While most nations suggest that between one and three mcg B12 daily is enough, and sources suggest that this already is enough to compensate for the fact that not all consumed B12 is absorbed, Vegan Society suggests 10 mcg daily (if one should take one pill) elsewhere on their site. They should IMO focus a lot more on why they think the UK government and all other governments see it differently - in the same text where they state "Daily amount: 3mcg".

    10) They seem to have forgotten that one minus one is zero. If people get some B12 from their vegan or non-vegan diet, but are exposed to all kinds of stuff which reduces/destroys or prohibits absorption of this B12, the result may be zero B12 absorption. This is very important - both for people who rely on supplements, and particularly important for eg. those who unfortunately assume that they'll get B12 from not washing their plants or by eating some random seaweed products. If plants would contain the small B12 amounts some sources claim they do, these small amounts probably wouldn't be enough if the amounts are destroyed by all those factors that Vegan Society barely mentions.

    11) The megadose dilemma. In addition to the general concern about allergic reactions against B12, the cancer dilemma and other reasons - it's important to mention, clearly, that too much B12 isn't good. I've seen vegans who think that taking 1000 mcg daily, every day, means 'to be on the safe side'. With more info, Vegan Society could prevent problems people would get from such high amounts.

    12) The unforgivable one. It's important that they provide vegans with info about what they need to pay attention to in order to remain healthy. But if they don't - in parallel - consistently mention how non-vegans' health are, how they do it in studies regarding nutrient deficiencies and much more, their visitors will get a very unbalanced impression about vegan nutrition. It will look like we - unlike them - need to do a lot to avoid getting sick, while studies show that we are doing really well. To not focus on this crucial topic is rather unforgivable.

    I don't have any opinion eg. about how much they should recommend daily. Maybe we all need 100 mcg B12 daily in the future - so again - my point isn't who is right and who is wrong. It's about how this information is presented.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

  2. #2
    fortified twinkle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    Link?
    "If you don't have a song to sing you're okay, you know how to get along humming" Waltz (better than fine) - Fiona Apple

  3. #3
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    Hi,
    are there any specific links you are looking for? Some of the material is from their latest book on nutrition, and there's more info eg. here. I've added some relevant links in the text as well.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    Can we have a poll option that reads "Don't know - confused and overwhelmed"??!!

    Joking aside, there is so much info on this site about B12 - and in the info you gave above - that I'm not sure what to vote.

  5. #5
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    Well... the topic is confusing - which is why a static site like vegansociety.com, should present it in an as non-confusing manner as possible instead of adding confusion.

    If the facts seem self-contradicting or misleading, it's better to at least say that there's a lot of stuff we don't know about this topic yet.

    And even then - it's important to 'think like a meat eater' when presenting info to non-vegans. Many of them already assume that living on a vegan diet means increased problems with getting enough nutrients, so if a site is posting something which confirms these feelings, their visitors may just move on to another site after a minute or two.
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

  6. #6
    cobweb
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    Quote Korn View Post
    Well... the topic is confusing - which is why a static site like vegansociety.com, should present it in an as non-confusing manner as possible instead of adding confusion.

    If the facts seem self-contradicting or misleading, it's better to at least say that there's a lot of stuff we don't know about this topic yet.

    And even then - it's important to 'think like a meat eater' when presenting info to meat eaters. Many of them already assume that living on a vegan diet means increased problems with getting enough with nutrients, so if a site is posting something which confirms these feelings, their visitors may just move on to another site after a minute or two.

    Agreed. I work in a health food shop and every week I get a new vegan or two in, terrified that they'll get poorly if they don't take a humungous amount of B12 supplement. It saddens me .

  7. #7
    splodge
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    I thought about this too, maybe we should write to the vegan society?

    It's also unforgivable that they have anything to do with Vegan Health (part of vegan outreach) website, which is run by non-vegans looking to deliberately misrepresent us and put people off. Just look at the blogs of the "dieticians" who run the site, especially the female, Ginny Someone-or-other. Her entries read like sensationalist newspaper articles, with the facts skewed and and it worded to make veganism look absolutely terrible. There's one about a study of why vegetarians become necrotarians again, and she was saying things like "they were vegetarian for an average of 9 years" and that they quit for the sake of their health and to stop being harassed. Then someone commented hold on, the people in the study weren't actually vegetarians at all!

    Here's her blog: http://www.theveganrd.com/ her main focus seem to be how veganism isn't that great, while on the surface pretending to be on our side. Look round the blog thoroughly, then you will see. Worryingly, she's also the "vegan examiner" for examiner.com. She and Jack Norris are absolutely horrendous and bend facts and twist their words to suit their hidden agenda. I would go as far as to call them liars. They act like veganism is one long health gauntlet that you have to run to avoid dying of malnutrition. They even claim that it does take some effort to get protein.

    (I know this is kind of the wrong thread, but still.)

  8. #8
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    Her entries read like sensationalist newspaper articles, with the facts skewed and and it worded to make veganism look absolutely terrible.
    Jack Norris (who is behind veganoutreach.com and veganhealth.org) and the woman behind theveganrd.com are 'in tune' with each other, and endorses each other (Norris is also endorsing his own sites in contexts where it isn't made clear that this is one person endorsing himself).

    Their theories - which I agree that sometimes appear as if they are designed to make people stay away from the vegan diet - aren't in tune with most others about B12 - not even Vegan Society. They have written books together, and are the two people that are responsible for spreading a wrong conversion table between the two ways of measuring B12 (pmol/l and pg/ml). AFAIK they have corrected the wrong info on their websites, but their books are being sold.This is like teaching math and mixing up 'multiply' with 'divide'.

    One day, when I have enough time (and it will take a lot more than a day!), I'll document the no-sensical stuff Norris and Messina spread properly. They have a lot in common, including that they happen to have people who register at various forums and promote Norris' and Messina's sites - people who consistently refuse to discuss the topics they introduce (and don't do anything but promote their sites).

    More here (and in other threads).

    Quote splodge View Post
    I thought about this too, maybe we should write to the vegan society?
    Please do...
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

  9. #9
    baffled harpy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    I don't know anything about Jack Norris but I thought Virginia Messina was quite good - I'm sure she has been around since the days of the old Compuserve vegetarian forum (i.e. about 20 years) and always seemed pro-vegan to me. I don't know what she's said about vitamin B12 though.

  10. #10
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    They're both "pro vegan", but that doesn't mean that the way the communicate about vegan nutrition reflects the truth or doesn't happen in a way that pushes people away from going vegan. And I'm not talking about holding back info all vegans should know (eg. that vegans, just like non-vegans, may develop deficiencies if they don't know what they are doing), but rather have a practice which in some areas just spreads/strengthens false myths about vegan nutrition.

    I was contacted a while ago by someone who found the way Norris/veganutreach.com and Walsh/vegansociety.com write about vegan nutrition "extremely odd and not at all consistent with wanting to encourage people to go vegan". They felt that the "veganhealth.com website is very dubious to say the least."

    Don't get me wrong: we should be better than the mainstream way of informing about vegan nutrition at telling new vegans what they need to pay attention to, and certainly stop spreading ideas a la "you'll get enough B12 if you only stop washing your plants" etc.

    Quoting a PM I got again: "Well, all VO did was reflect and seemingly fulfil the needs of a growing number of vegans - and if they hadn't got started, someone else could well have filled that role and done a much more effective job! It also strikes me as odd that Norris actively endorses BeyondVeg.com, which appears to be part of a larger "raw animal product" movement including Dr Mercola, Weston Price Foundation etc... who endorse raw meat and dairy AMONG some other very healthy guidelines that are often ignored by the mainstream vegan community - seemingly with the aim of making meat-eating appear healthier than it really is, and veganism less healthy than it really is (the latter seems to be done very effectively, whether intentionally or otherwise, by Norris and Walsh). "

    If you go to the site which trackback internet sites, you'll see that Norris' erratic formula for converting pmol/l to pg/ml was up there for years until they finally changed it last year. Everybody can make mistakes, but the sad news is that AFAIK they haven't told anyone that this error has been up on their site for ages (and is still in their books).

    There's a group of people who now "are trying to collect material that to help to expose the fact that the Vegan Society, Vegan Outreach, Jack Norris and Stephen Walsh might actually be doing more harm than good to the vegan movement". I don't know these people, but have come to the same conclusions (re. how Norris(Walsh/Messina write about B12) after having read everything I've come across about vegan nutrition for more several decades.

    According to Virginia Messina (and Norris), "The recommended dose is 25 to 100 micrograms [B12] per day". When Norris first came up with these numbers, he did it in a way which was a modification of his own attempt of coming up with a good recommendation (my emphasis):

    "Considering all the evidence, I think we should assume that absorbing 2 to 3 g per day is ideal. Depending on how you calculate the absorption rates, to get the same absorption rates from supplements in one dose, you would need 25 g to 240 g per day (11). Because these extrapolations are imprecise and because it seems much too high that someone would need 240 g per day (based on anecdotal evidence and the fact that vegans getting an average of 5.6 g of B12 per day had healthy homocysteine levels on average (14), I have adjusted the upper limit down to 100 g."

    So - the recommendation is at least 25 mcg day. But: on the same site, he also writes "Take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms". (10 mcg supplements are illegal in several countries for people who don't have a prescription.) But the problem is that these not only can these people make up their mind re what to recommend (min. 10 mcg or min 25 mcg from supplements), they avoid loads of important info about B12 (eg about B12 antagonistic factors which most people are exposed to). The end result is a big mess which makes going vegan look complicated. Newbies easily end up feeling that a vegan diet is less healthy than an average/standard diet.


    More here.

    If there was an organization dedicated to clearing up the misunderstandings and myths Messina/Norris and The Vegan Society contributes to spreading, it would be on the top of my list of who I wanted to donate to.


    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

  11. #11
    baffled harpy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    She is a dietician, isn't she, so I think it is natural that she is focused on giving detailed dietary advice, but I don't find the detail off-putting myself. Whether we agree with the recommendations themselves is another matter. I certainly agree that if they change their recommendations in an important way they should publicise the change.

    On the plus side, I think she may be one of the people behind the ADA's endorsement of vegan diets, which I think has been quite influential in convincing people that veganism won't make bits of you drop off

  12. #12
    Ex-admin Korn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    Of course the details are important - and also interesting. And essential. Nothing's wrong with the details - but a lot is wrong with avoiding them!

    Norris has published his change, but still kept the old recommendation in there. The thing he didn't publish (AFAIK) was that he finally changed his erratic B12 conversion table after all this years. The real problem, however, is how all the essential details about how our lifestyle/diet /habits influence our B12 status barely are mentioned - even in contexts where they are highly relevant.

    Whether we agree with the recommendations themselves is another matter.
    Well - with reference to the topic of this thread - the recommendations themselves is an essential part of 'the matter', but also how they explain their conclusions and how they avoid mentioning a lot of relevant facts which causes the overall impression that 'the vegan diet" (as we know there isn't one vegan diet) is less healthy or more complicated to survive on than a standard diet. Or both.

    Norris came to a conclusion that "Depending on how you calculate the absorption rates, to get the same absorption rates from supplements in one dose, you would need 25 g to 240 g per day", but changed 240 mcg to 100 mcg for the reasons mentioned above.
    When Messina writes about B12, she writes "The recommended dose is 25 to 100 micrograms per day" etc. She doesn't mentioned that there's only one person on the planet who has come to such a conclusion: Jack Norris. Not even The Vegan Society recommends a minimum of 25 mcg/day when getting B12 from supplements.

    How can a recommendation from one person (Messina's own colleague) - in a world with 7 billion people - be defined as "the recommended dose" by someone who wants to be taken seriously?

    ETA: Messina claims that "there doesn't seem to be any danger from high levels of B12" in spite of lots of well know reports suggesting the opposite (look eg here and here), so I'm not surprised that she is fine with recommending 25-100 mcg/day. These studies may also be relevant in this context.

    Vegan Society has earlier mentioned that they use Norris as a reference, as Norris use beyondveg.com as a source; a site which in many ways are focusing on spreading skepticism against vegan and vegetarian diets. Nothing is wrong with that as such, but when the end result is that Norris gives a false, negative impression of the vegan diet, a diet he is 'pro', bells will be ringing....

    BTW, here's the report Norris is using to justify the change from 240 to 100 mcg : http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20071646
    Last edited by Korn; Jun 7th, 2012 at 01:01 PM. Reason: wrong link and an ETA
    I will not eat anything that walks, swims, flies, runs, skips, hops or crawls.

  13. #13
    splodge
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    Default Re: Should Vegan Society update their info about B12?

    Korn, thanks for your informative replies, I'm so glad it wasn't just me who noticed! BTW you really ought to become a nutritionist or scientist, the best way to influence the vegan movement is to get an education and tackle the roots of the problems. You probably know more than most nutritionists already anyway.

    I'm not sure that the VS members of staff have any agenda. At least, most of them don't. It just seems like they've become influenced by someone they trust to the point of accepting whatever they say. Walsh is either not a very good nutritionist, or has an ulterior motive. I think the former is perhaps more likely. We've always got to bear in mind that mainstream society is well and truly necrotarian, and we're subconsciously indoctrinated everyday by their adverts, marketing and bad medical advice, bad science, by traditional but incorrect associations with protein + flesh and calcium + dairy, and by the notion that a diet isn't truly complete without both animal and plant products. These ideas run very, very deep and are hard to change, even if you've been vegan for many years or are a nutritionist. It's therefore very easy for vegans to become fixated on nutrition, and it's easy to see how innocent, genuine vegans can fall into the trap of over-emphasising it. I brought his book as a new vegan and it made me feel like it would be inherently more difficult for me to get good nutrition. When I looked back on it recently, I realised that a significant amount of the information was skewed, selective to what he wanted to say, and out of date, but not to the point of Ginny and Jack Norris's manipulation.

    I joined the VS way back in spring/summer 2007, and the society has definitely gone waaay down hill since then. They used to be very helpful to me as a new vegan, and would reply to my occasional emails and letters very well, but about 2 years ago I informed them of the horrendous vegan wikipedia page, and they didn't even acknowledge me. I thought that was very strange, especially considering that it's something a vegan society could - and should - fairly easily fix. Also, their magazine has become really crap and boring. Then last year they were trying to work out why they were losing members! I do worry that they may have been "infiltrated". They are definitely not as good an organisation as they were, at least. They aren't the only vegan nutritionist who advise and write for the Vegan Society - there is also Sandra Hood, Yvonne Bishop-Weston, and Sarah Mahalik. Yvonne B-W wrote a vegan cookbook with her husband, which was extremely, needlessly focused on nutrition to the point of creating poor recipes. Who knows how credible any of them really are? They all probably have the deep psychological feeling that many vegans have of "missing something" that mainstream society has ingrained into us. Y B-W definitely does, or her book wouldn't have been so useless.

    There really does need to be someone clearing up all the shit that's out there. Maybe, since the founder of the Vegan Society invented the word and definition of "vegan" there is some legal case for suspected non-vegans to not be allowed to use/misuse the word, or for people not to be allowed to use the word without permission? It's a long shot, but maybe Norris and Messina's atrocious book could be taken out of print for that reason? Viva!'s nutritionist, Veronika Charvatova, seems like she's probably credible, we need someone like her to counter all the wrong information. Perhaps whoever decides to clear the shit could ask for her help. There ought to be a "vegucation" site, countering discrimination and laying down the real facts. Animal welfare and vegan organisation's money would be well spent on research into b12 - whether it's in plants in useful amounts, whether we make it ourselves, the effects of the people eating Hydroxo- and 5-deoxyadenosylcobalamin (b12 coenzymes) from animals, cobalt, b12 antagonists and everything else we need to know, because we certainly haven't got the whole story yet - and I'm certain it will come out in our favour.

    Another problem is that there is so much absolute biased shit written in the media and in medical advice that it amounts to widespread institutional and individual discrimination. Veg*n's are treated differently by authorities - we receive ignorance from doctors, we get spied on just in case we're "terrorists", if we get ill it makes the papers, if our children get ill parents can be imprisoned and families split up, we get sneers and rudeness from everyday people for just for existing. Medical advice and recommendations for us are all wrong, just like they were for homosexual males until very recently (and is still being corrected). If what mainstream society does to veg*ns happened to any other group, there would be an outcry.

    harpy, as she's a dietician she ought to be unbiased and analytical, not cherry-picking suitable half-facts to suit her agenda. She strongly promotes the few studies or stories that imply veganism as really unhealthy, while ignoring the majority of studies and facts and ignoring the fact that necrotarians are more prone to deficiencies anyway. A dietician should get to the bottom of the facts, analysing the studies and working out whether the methods were adequate and unbiased etc. When you get to the bottom of it, it always comes out that veganism is, at the very least, harmless, and more likely extremely beneficial. She also words things in such a way to emphasise anything bad and ignore anything good. Like when Robin Gibb died recently of bowel cancer, she latched on to him being described on wikipedia as an "ardent vegan" and did a whole article about "when vegans get cancer" http://www.theveganrd.com/2012/05/wh...et-cancer.html <----here, saying things like that he may have been deficient in b12 (causes cancer apparently, although "there is very little research on this" - she neglects to mention that high b12 levels are more strongly linked with cancer!) and calcium, and that there is evidence that dairy is protective to colon cancer (which ignores that the protein in dairy leaves you in a negative calcium balance) and then says something appeasing (that you don't have to eat dairy and that there are protective benefits to getting it from leafy greens etc). She claims that she's lost 3 (imaginary!) friends to colon cancer, 2 vegetarians and one vegan, and that the "bottom line is, vegans get cancer" - which is hardly surprising, given that a natural diet may not be able to make up for a lifetime of chemicals, hormones, pus (in milk) and decomposing flesh, and also environmental pollutants. She fails to emphasise that we're still one hell of a lot less likely to get cancer than other people, or mention studies such as the China Study. I absolutely don't believe she's had three veg*n friend who had bowel cancer - having 3 middle aged friends die of it would be unusual for anyone. It's more likely she's just heard of three veg*n who contracted the disease, but she knows no one can prove it and most people reading that will believe her. The way she words things is very, very subtle and convincing so it's not surprising that vegans are falling for it hook, line and sinker. Regarding the ADA, it would have become obvious at some point that vegans won't drop dead. The ADA still insists that veg*n diets have to be "well-planned", as though necrotarian diets don't, when they ought to worry more than us.

    At the end of the day, any site with links to Beyond Veg is beyond dodgy. That site is not just anti-veg*n propoganda, it's actually vegephobic. There are articles on there trashing vegans as people and making out like we're aggressive and bullying etc and catering to all the ridiculous stereotypes. And again, any apparent "vegan" authority that still insists we have to be careful about protein and iron is not worth their salt.

    Norris and Messina's influence is terrifying, look at their speaking schedule ---> http://www.theveganrd.com/vegan-for-...ing-schedule-2 they talk with authority to both academics and vegans. "What does the science say?" Not what you're both saying!

    By the way, I also love how they call themselves "registered" dieticians - what else would they be?? Quacks??! It's just another little thing that adds to their air of credibility, for people who a) don't know about veganism (almost everyone) b) visitors who only skim through the site and c) people who just accept things for what they are and don't question enough.

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