Features: Where's the Beef? | B12
and Infants Analysis
During the month of January, Vegan Outreach filled orders for
58,270 copies of Why Vegan, Vegetarian Living, and Por
Que Vegano. This puts us on pace for nearly 700,000 copies for 2003. We
are also working on new projects for the year that will also help advance veganism
and animal liberation. This will be possible only with your continued support
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Catch Jack Norris in Southern California!
Jack Norris, RD, President of Vegan Outreach, and lauren Ornelas,
head of VivaUSA, will be speaking in Los
Angeles on February 11. See this
page for more details! Also, if interested in helping to organize a speaking
engagement for Matt Ball in Tucson between March 27 and 31, feel free to drop
us a line!
Boycott Cruelty Sticker Back in Stock
You can order copies from our catalog.
Vegan Outreach and Viva! present the
Leaflet Your Local School Day,
Please note, if you sign up
via our website (as distinct from snail mail) and do not receive a confirmation
within 4 days, please contact Jack Norris.
Help get vegan milks into schools
The Special Nutrition Program, part of the Food Nutrition Service
under the USDA, has extended its comments period about adding fortified soy
and rice milk alternatives to the public schools' food programs. Please call
and fax to support adding fortified soy and rice milk to the food programs in
our public schools.
Peter Murano, Associate Deputy Administrator
Special Nutrition Program
USDA Food and Nutrition Service
3101 Park Center Drive, Room 510
Alexandria, VA 22302
ph.: 703 305 2052, fax: 703 305 2782
"More teenagers, particularly girls, are turning to vegetarianism.
And that's making America's beef producers very nervous."
The article ends with:
“You may think you're eating healthfully by avoiding meat, but here are
some low-protein pitfalls you could face: thin, brittle hair, bad skin, low
energy. These are problems teenage girls care about — and they could be
massaged neatly into a palatable pro-meat message.”
You certainly don’t need to eat meat to get enough protein. Two recent
studies measured, among many other things, the protein intake of teenage vegetarians
and vegans. They did not go into great detail about protein, most likely because
there was no reason to be concerned about it. A few details:
The vegan females had an average protein intake of 55 g/day and vegan males
had an average intake of 72 g/day. The Swedish recommendations are 47 and 51
g, respectively. The 1989 US RDA’s are 55 g and 66 g for females and males.
The RDA’s for protein are designed to cover the needs of 97% of the population,
and so many people who fall below those levels will still be meeting their needs.
This study concludes that vegetarian teenagers “have a dietary pattern
that is more likely than nonvegetarians to meet the Healthy People 2010 objectives.”
The 242 “vegetarians” in this study included 158 semi-vegetarians
(i.e., they considered themselves vegetarians but actually ate meat). So, it
is a hard study to interpret for actual vegetarians. The average protein intakes
were 70.0 g/day for vegetarians and 75.3 g/day for non-vegetarians; not a huge
In any case, vegan teenagers who are restricting calories in an effort to lose
weight might need to focus on higher protein foods because a low-calorie vegan
diet can be too low in protein. And if you have symptoms of protein deficiency
such as getting colds often you might be able to use more protein in your diet.
-Jack Norris, RD
"Vegetarian women who breast-feed may be putting their babies
at risk for neurological problems. U.S. health officials are reporting that
two children in Georgia who were experiencing various neurological problems,
including speech and motor delays, were diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency
Note: There are now counter-articles making their way around the
web, one saying that these infants were suffering from a genetic defect causing
an inability to use B12 rather than suffering from a lack of intake. For that
reason, we would like to clarify some points.
information about the two infants can be found on the CDC’s website.
This infant was apparently vegan from 8 - 15 months, possibly with
no B12 intake at all (the report is not clear as to whether the baby received
breast milk during this period). MMA is the most precise marker of B12 function,
and this infant’s markedly elevated MMA shows she was suffering either
from a lack of intake, lack of absorption, or inability to utilize B12. She
received two B12 injections at 15 months, followed by daily B12 supplements.
Improvement from a B12 injection can generally last 6 months. This infant was
apparently still making progress 17 months after her B12 injections, indicating
that she did not have a B12 utilization problem. While it is possible that this
infant doesn't absorb B12 efficiently and must rely on higher-than-normal doses,
her problems were most likely due to a low or absent B12 intake between her
8th and 15th month.
This infant had 2 indicators of poor B12 activity: somewhat elevated MMA, and
a high homocysteine and MCV with normal folate. Once vitamin B12 was injected,
his development improved. His progress was measured again only 6 months after
the injection, so it is possible that he was suffering from an inability to
absorb or utilize B12. However, there is also no indication that he ever received
an adequate amount of B12 on a regular basis. The explanation that this infant
did not have enough B12 in his diet is the more likely explanation for his B12
Note: Once someone’s B12 levels become greatly depressed,
the intestines can become damaged causing problems with the absorption of B12.
Larger doses are then required to replenish health to a normal state where B12
can then be absorbed normally.
Conclusion: Adult vegans or near-vegans should make sure they
have a daily, adequate source of vitamin B12. Infants not breast-feeding should
have a reliable source of B12.
-Jack Norris, RD
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