Saturday, November 05, 2005

Hooray for Vitamin B12! Kryptonite to the whole vegan argument!

Vitamin B12 is a member of the vitamin B complex. It contains cobalt, and so is also known as cobalamin. It is exclusively synthesised by bacteria and is found primarily in meat, eggs and dairy products... Many vegan foods are supplemented with B12. Vitamin B12 is necessary for the synthesis of red blood cells, the maintenance of the nervous system, and growth and development in children. Deficiency can cause anaemia. Vitamin B12 neuropathy, involving the degeneration of nerve fibres and irreversible neurological damage, can also occur...

Vitamin B12 is excreted in the bile and is effectively reabsorbed. This is known as enterohepatic circulation. The amount of B12 excreted in the bile can vary from 1 to 10ug (micrograms) a day. People on diets low in B12, including vegans and some vegetarians, may be obtaining more B12 from reabsorption than from dietary sources. Reabsorption is the reason it can take over 20 years for deficiency disease to develop in people changing to diets absent in B12...

The current nutritional consensus is that no plant foods can be relied on as a safe source of vitamin B12...

Okay, here comes the beauty part. The human body produces B12, but just too far down in the gut to be absorbed in the body. Unless...

Human faeces can contain significant B12. A study has shown that a group of Iranian vegans obtained adequate B12 from unwashed vegetables which had been fertilised with human manure. Faecal contamination of vegetables and other plant foods can make a significant contribution to dietary needs, particularly in areas where hygiene standards may be low. This may be responsible for the lack of aneamia due to B12 deficiency in vegan communities in developing countries.

So, when I say that vegans should eat shit, I only mean it in the best possible way.

Vegans are recommended to ensure their diet includes foods fortified with vitamin B12. A range of B12 fortified foods are available. These include yeast extracts, Vecon vegetable stock, veggieburger mixes, textured vegetable protein, soya milks, vegetable and sunflower margarines, and breakfast cereals.

But... doesn't reliance on "fortified" foods mean that (A) you have to suck it up and eat some animal by-products by hiding them in other foods, and (B) that therefore, the argument that you can get all you need naturally in a vegan diet isn't true? Yep. That's exactly what it means.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Look out, circus protesters! The clowns fight back!

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