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Health Monster

The Vitamin Everyone Needs on a Plant-Based Diet

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A new study from China found that compared to omnivores, those who ate egg-free and meat-free diets had all the typical benefits of eating more plant-based: lower body mass index, lower blood pressure, lower triglyceride, lower total cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol, less free radical damage, etc. Having said that, if those on plant-based diets don’t get enough vitamin B12, levels of an artery-damaging compound called homocysteine can start to rise in the bloodstream and may counteract some of the benefits of healthy eating.

In a study profiled in my video, Vitamin B12 Necessary for Arterial Health, a group of Taiwanese researchers found that the arteries of vegetarians were just as stiff as the omnivores and both had the same level of thickening in their carotid arteries, presumably because of the elevated homocysteine levels. The researchers concluded:

“The negative findings of these studies should not be considered as evidence of neutral cardiovascular effects of vegetarianism, but do indicate an urgent need for modification of vegan diets through vitamin B12 fortification or supplementation. Vitamin B12 deficiency is a very serious problem leading ultimately to anemia, neuropsychiatric disorders, irreversible nerve damage, and high levels of artery-damaging homocysteine in the blood. Prudent vegans should include sources of vitamin B12 in their diets.”

One study of vegetarians whose B12 levels were really hurting found that they had even thicker, more dysfunctional arteries than omnivores. How do we know B12 was to blame? Because once they were given B12 supplements they got better. Their arterial lining started to shrink back, and the proper functioning of their arteries returned.

Without B12 fortified foods or B12 supplements, omnivores who were switched to a vegan diet developed vitamin B12 deficiency. Yes, it may take our blood levels dropping down to around 150 picomoles per liter to develop classic signs of B12 deficiency, like anemia or spinal cord degeneration, but way before that, we may start getting increased risk of cognitive deficits and brain shrinkage, stroke, depression, and nerve and bone damage. The rise in homocysteine may attenuate the beneficial effects of a vegetarian diet on cardiovascular health. The researchers concluded that while the beneficial effects of vegetarian diets on cholesterol and blood sugars “need to be advocated, but at the same time efforts to correct vitamin B12 deficiency in vegetarian diets can never be overestimated.”

Check out this video to see the safest source of vitamin B12:

 

For a quick cut-to-the-chase see my Q&A What is the best way to get vitamin B12? and for some context Vegan B12 deficiency: putting it into perspective. Vitamin B12 supplementation with fortified foods or supplements is critical on a plant-based diet.

We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!

 

Lead Image Source: The Vitamin Everyone Needs on a Plant-Based Diet

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Browse through some recent posts below:

5 Easy Ways to Take Your Smoothie to Super Healthy Levels

Raspberry and Blue Spirulina Smoothie

Mastering Intermittent Fasting on a Plant-Based Diet

Combating Constipation and Improving Your Internal Digestive Rhythm with a Plant-Based Diet

Kicking Anxiety by Kicking Dairy: Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives for Success


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0 comments on “The Vitamin Everyone Needs on a Plant-Based Diet”

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LindaMC
2 Years Ago

You should use B-12 Methycobalamin, I take 5000 mcg a day. If I could afford it I would take 10,000/day. This is the best Vit. B-12 to take.


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JulieLu
2 Years Ago

Re B12. The comments re stiffened arteries and B12 that presumably due to lack Bit B12, I encourage a look at Vit K2 where very strong evidence exists for link to CHD / osteoporosis / ???

Traditional food source has been beef fat, full cream dairy and range eggs and in one area in Japan -Natto. This population were very different in health to other counterparts and has been attributed to their food intake of K2 via the vegetarian source of speciality fermented soybeans.


Reply
Bob Cooney
2 Years Ago

Dr. Greger,

Does a vegan supplement of B12 work?

Thank you.


Reply
Lara Morgan
2 Years Ago

I was over weight and tried so many things. Different things work for different people and I was lucky enough to find one that worked for me. I lost 18 pounds in one month without much exercise and it\'s been a life changer. I\'m a little embarrased to post my before and after photos here but if anyone actually cares to hear what I\'ve been doing then I\'d be happy to help in any way. Just shoot me an email at [email protected] and I\'ll show you my before and after photos, and tell you about how things are going for me with the stuff I\'ve tried. I wish someone would have helped me out when I was struggling to find a solution so if I can help you then it would make my day


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