RE: Question about Vitamins
Posted Monday, November 26, 2012 at 6:25 PM
No extra vitamins required OTHER than B12. This is assuming you have a varied, plant-based diet rich in colorful whole foods.
Why B12? B12 is made by bacteria - bacteria too far down in our intestinal tract to be absorbed in any significant amount (if at all). We, like other animals, do excrete B12 in our waste. At one time, we probably got plenty of B12 simply by eating plants in the ground, a ground that was full of bacteria. Now, our food system is much cleaner, thus lacking reliable supplies of good bacteria in the food (unless it is added to that food later, like you see in pro/pre-biotic yogurts - NO, that is not naturally occurring; it is added in a factory).
Anyone over the age of 50 should take a B12 supplement, according to our government who makes such dietary recommendations. We simply don't absorb it as well as when we are younger, regardless of diet. Why this biological error? Who can say. Maybe we were not meant to live so long. Maybe we ate so much more bacteria in the old days it did not matter. It's unclear.
And as for why we need a supplement at all on an optimal diet? It's a great question, and I would argue (in addition to the above re. B12) because of the American, animal-heavy diet, we find ourselves needing all sorts of supplemented foods due to possible deficiencies. For example, most Americans do not consume enough folate (vegans consume loads!), so guess what, it's supplemented in a lot of foods, especially refined grains. Other B vitamins lacking in the American diet are supplemented into refined grains as well. Vitamin D is supplemented into milks (dairy and non-dairy versions alike). In fact, there is NO reliable dietary source of vitamin D other than supplemented foods. Vitamin A is supplemented into low-fat cow's milk.
And don't worry, B12 deficiencies among vegans are actually rare; more common are B12 deficiencies among the older population. Still, not worth testing your stored-up B12 out of curiosity!
Susan Levin, MS, RD
PCRM Director of Nutrition Education