Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dr. Michael Klaper Tells Raw Food Vegans What They Need To Know About Vitamin B12 At Raw Health Expo

This vegan lemon basil pesto contains B12-rich nutritional yeast

The Truth Is Refreshing at Sebastopol Raw Food Expo
On July 31st and August 1st I attended the Sonoma County Raw Health Expo in Sebastopol, California. I haven't been to a raw food expo in a while. What I noticed this time was that the speakers were more realistic and forthright in their opinions about the few nutritional risks of a 100% raw food diet. In the past, many of the speakers would insist that everything that anyone could possibly need can be obtained from raw, live plants. I spent years studying this question. In fact my PhD dissertation topic was, "The Nutritional Adequacy of a Raw Food Vegan Diet". In this I concluded that you could not get adequate amounts of vitamins D and B12 from raw plants alone. For these you must supplement or eat foods that contain them. I also concluded that careful meal planning was required to ensure the adequate consumption of vitamins E and B2, calcium, iodine, iron, zinc and the amino acid, methionine. Since that study, I would add today that although the omega 3 fatty acid ALA is easily obtained in the raw food diet, the more important DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids are not. Although these are said to be manufactured by the body from ALA, it is now known that in most people this process is very inefficient and some people cannot make this conversion at all. A person who is on a 100% raw food diet for an extended period of time should have their blood tested for all essential vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, especially if they are pregnant or breast feeding.

Dr. Michael Klaper, a specialist in vegan nutrition, gave an excellent talk on vitamin B12. He clearly stated that you cannot get vitamin B12 from plants, period. There are several myths held by some of the early raw food pioneers that Dr. Klaper dispelled.
Myth Number One: You could get sufficient amounts of this nutrient from the B12 produced in your intestines by friendly bacteria.
Truth: Although it is true that bacteria in your intestines produce vitamin B12, it is produced well beyond the point where it would be absorbed.
Myth Number Two: B12 can be found on vegetables that are not washed because the bacteria-enriched dirt would supply adequate amounts of this critical nutrient.
Truth: This may be true in developing countries where unwashed vegetables are fertilized by human manure but it is not true in industrialized countries.
Myth Number Three: Raw food vegans who haven't supplemented in years but show no deficiencies are OK.
Truth: Vitamin B12 is stored in the body and only a small amount of it is lost each day. It could take years for a person to develop a severe deficiency. Unfortunately, when it does, it could be irreversible.
Here are more highlights from Dr. Klaper's talk:

Why We Need Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is required for:
* Production of red blood cells. Deficiency leads to anemia.
* Healthy nerves and spinal cord. Deficiency could lead to irreversible spinal cord damage.
* Healthy brain function. Deficiency leads to dementia.
* Detoxification of homocysteine. Deficiency leads to elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine which can damage arteries and lead to cardiovascular disease.

Are There Vegan B12 Sources?
The only real natural source of vitamin B12 are from microorganisms and the animals that consume them. There are no reliably good "natural vegan sources". It was once thought that tempeh, tofu, miso, shoya, tamari and umeboshi plums were sources but further analysis found no significant B12. It was also thought that seaweeds, algae, chlorella and spirulina were high in B12 however, it was found that they actually contain B12 "analogues". These analogues are structurally similar to vitamin B12 and can actually block the B12 receptors and increase the risk of deficiency.
Dr. Klaper recommends getting vitamin B12 from multiple sources like Vegetarian Support Formula Red Star Nutritional Yeast and B12 supplements. The most absorbable form of B12 supplements, according to Klaper, is hydroxocobalamin, and he recommends taking 5 micrograms daily or even a monthly injection.

The Most "At Risk" Individuals
Dr. Klaper said that the people most "at risk" for vitamin B12 deficiency are long term vegans and infants of vegans who are breast fed. He very strongly warned, "If a vegan nurses their child without taking vitamin B12 they are putting their child at risk!"

A big thanks to Dr. Klaper for his honesty and for spreading the word on this very important matter. It is easy to get swept away with being raw and wanting to do absolutely everything in a natural way. But vitamin B12 deficiency is very real and very dangerous.

For a raw food recipe that uses vitamin B12-rich nutritional yeast, see my Raw Vegan Lemon Basil Pesto with Raw Zucchini Spaghetti.


Jenn and Jac @ sketch-free eating said...

Thank you for explaining this so clearly!! I've been looking on the web for info about food sources for B12. I just became a vegan and I think that's why I am so tired all the time...

Heidi said...

Great article, thanks for posting it! As a new vegan, I'm trying to learn as much as I can. I'm going to write down Dr. Klaper's advice on supplementing B12 and post it inside my cupboard door. Thanks again!

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

A vegan diet is so healthy but it just doesn't provide us with everything we need. Besides vitamin B12, it's also important to supplement with vitamin D (D2 is the vegan form) and an algae based DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acid.

Anonymous said...

I eat the occasional egg and bit of salmon expecting this would keep up my B12 levels but my recent blood tests showed that I am below the significantly below the recommended range - supplements are obviously necessary for one's health.

Anonymous said...

If you cannot get vitamin B12 from a raw vegetable diet and require supplements, is this really how people were meant to eat?

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Many diets are deficient in something or other. Nearly every diet lacks sufficient vitamin D. It depends on your goals and beliefs what diet you choose and what supplements or fortified foods you are willing to eat.
For those who are vegans because they do not want to harm animals, having to take a supplement is a small sacrifice.
For those who are vegans for health only - eating predominantly a plant based diet with some fish or poultry may work better for them.
For those who live on McDonalds burgers and fries, they would need to supplement with a lot more than just a vitamin B12.
I do not propose all people live on a raw vegetable diet but I do propose that all people incorporate as many raw and cooked fruits and vegetables as they can. A diet needs to be balanced to provide what each person individually needs.
Thanks for your comment,

seanmullins said...

To further shed light on the is this how we were meant to eat trolling, if it wasn't for our sanitised first world system we would get enough b12 from plants.

vegan4life said...

Silk brand soymilk as well as other brands contain 50% of the RDA of B12 per 8 oz serving.