GirlieGirl Army is one of my favorite websites because of articles like this.
They discuss Gena Hamshaw’s (a pre-med, post bacc student and certified clinical nutritionist) take on B12 supplementation. She addresses the question posed by many non-vegans and vegans alike: “How can we try to advocate the diet to others… if there are essential nutrient gaps that demand supplementation?”
What a loaded question. But I honestly have never read a more well thought out and written response to this question than Gena’s.
Even if you want to try and be all “natural” and avoid supplements, you NEED to supplement B12. Why? Because we really can’t get it anywhere else. Bacteria is the ultimate source for B12. In the article Hamshaw discusses this bacteria in its different forms:
The daily requirements of B12 for humans is very low, and in the past when we didn’t live in such a sterile and germophobic society it is likely that soil and other bacterial contamination of plant foods provided all the B12 needed. But our environments are different in the modern age. We are not only living much more sanitarily and bacteria-free, but our agricultural soils have also become sterilized. Of course, there is still the bacterial production of B12 in the lower intestinal tracts of animals, including humans, but we can’t absorb the vitamin from that location. However, undoubtedly much of the B12 found in animal foods is derived from intestinal bacterial contamination during the slaughter process.
In our former agrarian society when bacteria-rich soils were worked by hand, there simply wasn’t an issue with humans getting enough B12, because it was supplied by soil contamination of our foods and skin. The issue of vegans requiring vitamin B12 supplementation is therefore not an indicator of a plant-based diet being inferior or unhealthy. The two really have nothing to do with each other. The fact that modern vegans require B12 supplementation is related to the sterility of our environment, not to the overall nutritional quality of the foods we eat. Humans haven’t changed, but our environment has.
I have never really thought about this, but I think its important information for all to understand and share. To check out the rest of the article, click the link below.