"Vitamin B12 only comes in meat and animal products. So, a plant-based diet has to be deficient in this vital vitamin and is therefore no good."
That's what many on the Standard American Diet (SAD) believe to be true.
Well, it's a false belief…
To obtain the benefits of vitamin B12 – especially as we age into seniorhood -- a meat-centered diet is simply not adequate. Neither is a plant-based diet.
As you get older, you may not have enough hydrochloric acid in your stomach to absorb the vitamin from the foods you eat.
Actually, the B12 separates from the protein in your food - with the help of this acid - and then reattaches to another protein called intrinsic factor (made by your stomach) to be absorbed into your blood stream and body.
Other groups of people who have pernicious anemia, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, or have had gastrointestinal surgery, are even more deficient in B12.
To assure yourself – as an older adult – of the benefits of vitamin B12 you must supplement it or eat fortified foods.
No matter what diet you're on!
(The above photo shows a container of tablets [5000 mcg], each tablet being a once-a-week dose)
You need it to develop red blood cells and nerve cells.
It is needed to help make DNA, the genetic material present in every human cell.
It helps prevent anemia.
Other important benefits of vitamin B12 are its effects on processing fats and carbohydrates (two macronutrients) in your body.
As for the third macronutrient, protein, its building blocks (called amino acids) become unavailable for use without vitamin B12.
Unlike other vitamins, this nutrient is sourced from microorganisms (or microbes) - bacteria, molds, yeasts, algae.
It is NOT made by plants or animals.
So, how does it end up in the animal food you eat?
Historically, vitamin B12 was found in fertile soil, natural drinking water and on plants. Animals eat plants. People eat animals. Make that some of us.
So, why is there none on the plants you eat?
People (our ancient ancestors, anyway) ate plants – rinsed (but not washed in chlorinated water to get rid of the toxic pesticides and fertilizers of modern industrialized agriculture) and unprocessed.
In fact, almost ALL the food our ancestors ate was plant food that was rich in B12. There was no deficiency in this vital vitamin then.
Less than you may think – but you DO need it.
The amount also depends on your age. It's recommended that you, as a senior, take a minimum of 2.4 mcg/day. Many – including me – take much higher amounts.
The reason for this is obvious.
Modern industrialized agriculture (monoculture or monocropping) leaves the soil denatured and depleted. Toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers can destroy any and all microbes (the aforementioned molds, yeasts, bacteria).
Besides – and this is for the meat eaters among you – today's factory farmed animals are mainly raised on genetically modified organism (GMOs) like corn and soy, instead of nutrient-rich grasses.
How can these animals provide any decent amount of vitamin B12 on a totally unnatural diet?
The meat, dairy, and GMO producers want you to believe there is plenty of B12 in their products. Far from it.
The cereal manufacturers of course add B12 to some of their edible food-like substances to make them more "healthy." Ah well…
By the way, recent studies show that acid reflux disease (GERD or peptic ulcer disease) caused by the Standard American Diet (SAD) has created a huge problem for about 50 percent of Americans.
People with this condition resort to heavy use of antacid medication. These drugs suppress production of gastric acid in your stomach.
And voila, a vitamin B12 deficiency results. My recommendation is strong - and again, my audience is the senior population.
Whether you're eating animal products or enjoy a vegan lifestyle like I am – as an older adult you should supplement to receive the benefits of vitamin B12.
I don't think there is harm in taking extra B12 -- especially in light of new research that links even mild deficiency to an increased risk for cognitive decline in seniors.
After much research I concluded that what works for me - and because it's convenient - is a once a week sublingual dose of 5000 mg B12.
Some bottles (see ad) contain 300 tables. At one tablet per week these will last you for years and cost mere pennies!
However, talk to your health care professional about the different forms of supplementation, including shots. Ask about interference or interaction with medications. It's important.
And make sure your physician knows as much about nutrition as s/he does about prescriptions. Good luck.
Note: I also use fortified nutritional yeast with many dishes.
Other benefits of vitamin B12 - and how it affects your health - are being studied.
What IS known for certain is that a host of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, memory loss and dementia, and others can be prevented or reversed with the help of a vitamin B12-fortified, whole foods plant-based diet.
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