Sorry, Meat Industry! U.S. Dietary Guidelines Report Rules Vegan Diet is Best for the Planet

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Meat Industry

Meat and potatoes, it’s the quintessential American meal. Well, based on the new scientific report from the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, Americans might want to start thinking more along the lines of plant-based meat and potatoes. And not just for the sake of their own health, but for the planet’s health as well.

That’s right, after a long and heated debate over whether or not the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee should take sustainability into consideration when creating the 2015 guidelines, the committee has spoken and they have!

“Consistent evidence indicates that, in general, a dietary pattern that is higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with lesser environmental impact (GHG emissions and energy, land, and water use) than is the current average U.S. diet,” states the Committee in their newly released scientific report.

Naturally, this recommendation has the meat industry shaking in their boots, but the fact is, if Americans do not reduce their consumption of meat and dairy products, we will never be able to sustain food production as the population grows. Animal agriculture is also the leading cause of environmental degradation in the U.S. and arguably the entire planet. In the United States alone, at least 170,750 miles of rivers and 2,417,801 lake acres have been deemed “compromised” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency because of agricultural run-off. Globally, livestock production is responsible for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

And promoting a primarily plant-based diet is not just better for the planet, but it isbeneficial for people as well. A diet high in whole, plant-based foods and low in saturated fat and cholesterol (mainly found in animal products), is known to reduce the risk of heart disease and obesity.

“Previous advisory panels have noted the value of vegetarian diets, but these recommendations have been expanded to specifically demonstrate how a vegetarian diet reduces the risk of many types of chronic disease,” says the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

So, what is not to like about the many lauded benefits of the committee’s recommendations? Well, for one, it deals quite the blow to the animal agricultural industry. When news first surfaced that the Committee might consider suggesting lowering their recommendations for meat and dairy consumption, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association was quick to undercut the decision, releasing a statement from Dr. Richard Thorpe that called the committee “biased” and the draft meat recommendations “absurd.” While the meat industry contends that lean meats can play a role in a healthy, balanced diet – there are plenty of plant-based protein sources that can do a better job (without the cholesterol).

Many environmental and animal rights groups have applauded the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee for their report (we certainly did!), but this does not guarantee that these recommendations will be reflected in the official 2015 guidelines. The animal agriculture industry has a significant influence in Washington and there is no doubt that they will throw as many lobbying dollars they possibly can at this “problem” to make it go away.

One thing is certain, however, this report sends a message that many people need to hear: our current food habits are neither sustainable nor healthy. Whether or not the guidelines reflect the findings of this report, we can all actively work to reduce (or completely eliminate) our personal consumption of animal products. When there are so many delicious plant-based options out there, making a better choice for you and the planet has never been easier!

Image source: evilrobotsmash/Flickr

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Vitamin E

Vitamin E

You may have heard of Vitamin E buzzing around the beauty industry, or heard of foods rich in this vitamin to help protect your skin and even fight the looks of aging. And you’d be right in that your skin is one of the biggest benefits that this vitamin can provide for your health, but it’s also important for other functions in the body as well.  Vitamin E is a powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant that helps protect cell membranes against damage caused by free radicals and prevents the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. The term vitamin E encompasses a group of eight compounds, called tocopherols and tocotrienols, that comprise the vitamin complex as it is found in nature.

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that acts as an  antioxidant in the body. It helps protect cell membranes against free radicals that cause damage to your skin and also prevents the oxidation of unhealthy cholesterol (LDL) that can lead to heart disease. Vitamin E is found abundantly in plant-based sources, as you’ll learn more about below.

Work this important vitamin into your diet with out tips, recipes, and learn more about how Vitamin E can benefit you.

  • OVERVIEW

    Vitamin E is crucial for the maintenance of skeletal, cardiac, and smooth muscle. It also assists in the formation of red blood cells and helps to maintain stores of other vitamins, such as Vitamin A, K, and the important minerals iron and selenium. Since it is a fat-soluble vitamin, it’s important that you eat enough healthy fats in your diet (preferably with meals) so your body can absorb the Vitamin E you’re also eating. Since Vitamin E is found in some plant-based sources of healthy fats, it’s quite easy to make sure you get enough. Though a deficiency in this vitamin is rare, it’s helpful to make it a point to eat foods with Vitamin E on a regular basis.

  • BENEFITS

    Vitamin E plays a role in immune system health, protects the heart against oxidative stress that leads to disease, prevents against cancer, Alzheimer’s, and even some diabetes-related health issues.

  • DAILY RECOMMENDED INTAKE

    The DRI (daily recommended intake) of Vitamin E for adults ages 14 and older is 15 milligrams. or 22-23 international units (IU). Mothers who are breastfeeding should increase their dosage to 19 mg (or 28.5 IU). Keep in mind that if you take a supplement with additional Vitamin E, there’s a small risk of toxicity since most multivitamins don’t have enough to cause an overdose when taken in combination of dietary sources, however, you should be sure to keep all sources (through your diet and supplements) away from high heat temperatures and exposure to air since it can cause the vitamin to go rancid and lose potency.

  • DIETARY SOURCES

    Good sources of Vitamin E in a plant-based diet are:

    • all nuts
    • all seeds
    • avocados
    • spinach
    • rice bran tocotrienols
    • wheat germ (contains 100 percent in just a tablespoon!)
    • whole grains
    • broccoli
    • mango
    • tomatoes
    • kiwi fruit
    • Swiss chard
    • olives
    • mustard greens
    • asparagus
    • beet greens
    • turnip greens

This content provided above is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Meat and Soda Industry are not Happy

Meat and soda industries
Lobbyists for the US meat and soda industries are rallying the troops after a government committee on healthy eating has recommended that Americans consume less red meat and sugary drinks, and more fruit and vegetables. The 571-page report published by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) was dismissed as “flawed” and “nonsensical” by representatives of the meat industry. Soda makers joined in the criticism, saying the panel of experts had gone “beyond its scope” and that high intensity sweeteners criticized by the panel “can be an effective tool in weight loss.”

Although the report has no legal powers, it’s very likely that the government will implement its advice. This will inform new public health campaigns and set federal policy for things like school lunches, which is a program worth $16 billion annually. The report also recommends for the first time ever that Americans consider the sustainability of their food. As with the advice for healthy eating, this means simply eating less meat and more vegetables and plants.

THE ADVICE IS STRAIGHTFORWARD AND FAMILIAR

Even those of us that love a burger and Coke will recognize the DGAC’s advice is hardly radical. “A healthy dietary pattern is higher in vegetables, whole grains, low- or non-fat dairy, seafood, legumes, and nuts,” says the report, “[It’s] moderate in alcohol (among adults); lower in red and processed meats; and low in sugar-sweetened foods and drinks and refined grains.” Surprisingly, however, the report did repeal decades-old advice that individuals limit their intake of cholesterol, noting that there was no clear link between foods high in the nutrient (e.g. eggs and seafood) and health problems.

COFFEE, THANKFULLY, GETS A THUMBS-UP

Thankfully, for the caffeine-addicted among us, the report gives the thumbs-up to moderate coffee consumption, noting that drinking three to five cups of coffee a day “is not associated with increased long-term health risks.” However, the panel added that Americans tended to underestimate their coffee consumption and that three to five cups a day was equal to only two or three servings from Starbucks.

They also highlighted the dangers of energy drinks with high caffeine content, saying that children and adolescents should drink them sparingly, or better still, not at all. Adults should also avoid consuming energy drinks and alcohol together — whether “mixed together or consumed at the same sitting.” This means popular drinks like Red Bull and vodka should be off the cards for those trying to stay healthy. The panel also mooted the idea of a tax on sugary drinks and foods.

As well as recommending that Americans consider the sustainability of their diet, the report highlights the meat industry as a particular environmental concern. “Current evidence shows that the average U.S. diet has a larger environmental impact in terms of increased greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use and energy use,” said the report. “This is because the current U.S. population intake of animal-based foods is higher and plant-based foods are lower.”

BEEF USES 28 TIMES MORE LAND THAN PORK OR POULTRY

The meat industry described the panel’s “foray into the murky waters of sustainability” as “well beyond its scope and expertise,” and pointed out that although the carbon footprint of meat was higher than plants, the two do not deliver an equal amount of nutrients. This is true, of course, but the ratio of environmental impact to nutritional output is not something that can be easily measured. Even among livestock there is much variation. Beef, for example, needs 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork and poultry.

Although the government is free to ignore the DGAC’s advice, the chances are it won’t, said former member Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University. Nestle describes the 2015 report as a “dramatic departure” for the panel, which has previously recommended eating meat as a way to reduce saturated fat intake. “The one thing the Dietary Guidelines have never been allowed to do is say clearly and explicitly to eat less of anything,” Nestle told Politico. “This committee is not burying anything, or obfuscating …They’re just telling it like it is.”

Australia’s Oldest Man Spends His Time Knitting Tiny Sweaters for Rescued Penguins

 

 

 

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Alfred ‘Alfie’ Date learned to knit in the 1930s so that he could make a jumper for his new nephew. Flash forward over 80 years, and Alfie’s knitting skills are allowing him to help his country’s wildlife. Amazingly enough, at 109 years old, Alfie is worried about having idle hands, so he is putting his knitting needles to work and creating the most adorable sweaters for penguins!

Australia's Oldest Man Spends His Time Knitting Tiny Sweaters for Injured Penguins

 

When Alfie arrived at his new home, an elderly-care village on the New South Wales Central Coast, he was immediately asked if he could put his well-known knitting skills to good use. Around that time in March 2014, Phillip Island’s Penguin Foundation requested the help of knitters around the world to make sweaters for penguins who had fallen victim to an oil spill. So naturally, Alfie signed up!

Sweaters are vital in the rescue of penguins affected by oil spills. A patch of oil the size of a thumbnail can cause their feathers separate and get matted together, allowing the cold to reach their otherwise protected skin. Penguins who are covered with oil will instinctively try and clean themselves by picking at their feathers with their beaks, this causes them to ingest oil which can damage their digestive system. Placing sweaters on rescued penguins prevents them from ingesting any oil while preening and keeps them nice and warm.

Australia's Oldest Man Spends His Time Knitting Tiny Sweaters for Injured Penguins

 

The idea to knit sweaters for penguins started after an oil spill in 2001 affected 438 penguins. Thanks to these sweater donations, 96 percent of the penguins were saved, rehabilitated and released back into the wild by the Wildlife Clinic at Phillip Island Nature Parks. So, when another spill compromised penguins in 2014, the foundation asked for more sweater donations.

The response to the Penguin Foundation’s request for sweaters was amazing. They quickly had more than enough, including a bunch made by Alfie!

Australia's Oldest Man Spends His Time Knitting Tiny Sweaters for Injured Penguins

 

Alfie continues to knit and send penguin sweaters to the Penguin Foundation. ”It’s amazing and we feel quite privileged to have him dedicating his time and effort to the Penguin Foundation,” a spokesperson told ABC’s Nine News.

Australia's Oldest Man Spends His Time Knitting Tiny Sweaters for Injured Penguins

 

Alfie’s knitting skills and dedication to the penguins is truly inspiring. He is officially our favorite little-penguin-jumper-knitter!

Though there is no longer a need for knitted penguin sweaters, there are plenty of ways to help the Penguin Foundation. For more information, visit their website here.

Lead image source: Daily Mail Australia

Fiber is the Key to Good Health

PCRM

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Fiber plays a key role for digestion, weight loss, and cancer prevention, and can even increase lifespan! But don’t be fooled—many packaged food companies are trying to boost sales by adding extra fiber to their gummy candy or yogurt, but the best source of fiber is plants themselves! Yes, natural fiber is found only in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. So make sure you’re filling your plate with whole, plant-based foods.

What is fiber?

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is found in oats, beans and other legumes, and some fruits and vegetables. Soluble fiber lowers cholesterol levels. Insoluble fiber—found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, kidney beans, and bran—acts like a broom, cleaning your digestive tract.

Both types of fiber are only found in plant foods—meat and dairy products contain no natural fiber. Don’t be fooled by yogurts that prominently advertise their fiber content! That fiber was added during processing. Since dairy products are high in saturated fat and cholesterol, skip the yogurt and head to the produce aisle. Just one cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber! One cup of red lentils has 16 grams of fiber—and 18 grams of protein.

15030-NTR American Heart Month-Twitter-Red Lentils v1

Weight Loss

If you’re looking to lose weight, filling up on fiber-rich foods is your best bet. My colleagues and I recently published a study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showing that simply switching to a plant-based diet leads to significant weight loss, without any calorie counting or exercise.

Cancer Prevention

Not only can fiber help you shed pounds or relieve your digestive woes, it can decrease cancer risk. By improving the intestinal transit of food and waste, fiber helps your body eliminate carcinogens. The U.S. Polyp Prevention Trial also found that a high-fiber diet reduced the occurrence of colon polyps. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute examined 13 studies and found that the risk of colorectal cancer decreased as fiber intake increased.

How Can I Get Enough Fiber Each Day?

I recommend a dietary intake of 40 grams of fiber per day—while most Americans are only getting 10-15 grams. But there’s no need to count. It’s easy to boost your fiber content with a few easy swaps. Trade white bread for whole grains. Ditch sugary cereals for heart-healthy oatmeal. Add some fruit to your breakfast or grab an apple or banana when you’re in a hurry. Make sure that everything on your plate has at least a little bit of fiber. Most importantly, skip the animal products. When your menu is plant-strong, you’ll be getting the fiber you need.

Why don’t authorities advocate a sufficient reduction in cholesterol down to safe levels?

· February 18th 2015 ·

Optimal Cholesterol Level

Doctor’s Note

It’s imperative for everyone to understand Dr. Rose’s sick population concept, which I introduced in When Low Risk Means High Risk.

What about large fluffy LDL cholesterol versus small and dense? See Does Cholesterol Size Matter?

More from the Framingham Heart Study in Barriers to Heart Disease Prevention.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

Uncle Sam Says: Eat More Meat!

 meat

Posted: December 9, 2014 in Images, Posts
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640px-Uncle_Sam_(pointing_finger)In his 1932 novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley imagined a future where people exist solely to support the economy and are conditioned from birth to buy things. Government bureaucrats manipulate the sheep-like citizens with drugs and slogans to make them consume as much as possible. In Huxley’s vision, 26th-century consumers learn that “ending is better than mending” and “the more stitches, the less riches” – that is, buying new things is better than fixing old ones. But as I discuss in my book Meatonomics, this eerie futuristic fantasy – with government using marketing slogans and other undue influence to drive consumption – has arrived centuries early for US consumers. In the Brave New World of the 21st century – where big box stores and mega markets dominate the landscape – the US government uses innocuous-sounding “checkoff” programs to encourage people to buy more animal foods.

In fact, checkoffs make us consume much more meat, eggs and dairy than we would otherwise. Yet most Americans have never heard of these government programs, and for that reason it’s important to consider the dramatic impact checkoffs have on our consumption patterns and our lives. In this article, I explore seven surprising facts behind our government’s marketing of animal foods via these little-known programs.

  1. Checkoffs Use Super-Catchy Slogans

beefiwfdMeat and dairy ads have bombarded American consumers relentlessly for decades.  You’ve seen the milk mustaches and the snappy slogans:

Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.
Pork. The Other White Meat.
Milk. It Does a Body Good.

They’re as American as apple pie and as commonplace as ads for Ford or Chevy. Like an ink stamp, these ads imprint themselves on our subconscious and become part of our belief system. What’s for dinner? Without even knowing why, many think, Beef.

  1. A Checkoff is a Tax

Checkoffs used to be voluntary, and producers opted in by checking a box. Nowadays, the programs are mandatory – just like any other tax. The way they work is simple: Congress slaps a small assessment on certain items, and the collected funds are used to pay for research and marketing programs that boost the goods’ sales. So when animal food producers collect $1 per head of cattle, $0.40 per $100 of pork, or $0.15 per 100 pounds of dairy, the funds go to national, state and regional marketing groups. There aren’t many Boston Tea Party–like protests when it comes to making the payments – because most consumers don’t know about checkoffs and most producers think their trade groups put the money to good use.

  1. It’s Consumers, Not Producers, Who Pay the Tax

Nominally speaking, it’s producers who pay checkoff taxes – a fact they proclaim loudly and regularly. But that’s not who really pays for checkoffs.  Economists point to a tax’s “incidence” to describe who ultimately bears the burden of paying it. In the case of checkoffs, the cost is generally passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. In other words, we pay extra to get both the product and the snappy marketing message.

  1. They’re Incredibly Effective

dreamstime_xl_17990934Across the board, checkoffs work remarkably well to make Americans buy more meat and dairy than we would otherwise. According to the US Department of Agriculture, for each dollar of checkoff funds spent promoting animal foods, “thereturn on investment can range as high as $18.” The pork checkoff program drives $14 in sales per dollar spent. The lamb checkoff lacks a memorable motto but still provides an unusually huge boost, driving additional sales of $38 for each dollar spent on promotion. But the biggest winner might be dairy, which boasted that over a year and a half, checkoff efforts contributed to more than 7 billion additional pounds of milk sold. That’s an extra forty-seven servings of dairy per person in the United States – above and beyond the hundreds of servings people would have consumed anyway during the period. Clearly, milk is up to more than just doing a body good.

  1. They Spend a Fortune

All told, these programs provide funding of $557 million yearly for animal food producers to promote their goods. This massive, government-mandated marketing budget gives the animal food industry something few other sectors have: a huge marketing war chest to boost sales of all goods from all producers in the program. In almost every other industry, individual corporations must fork out their own funds to increase sales rather than rely on government programs to prop up their numbers. With checkoff programs, on the other hand, Americans buy more of nearly every conceivable animal food than they would otherwise. Like an insatiable diner, the animal food industry relishes the higher sales that result. Dairy promoters brag that since their checkoff program started in 1983, annual per capita consumption of milk “has climbed 12 percent to 620 pounds.”

  1. They Speak the Message of the Federal Government

800px-Oblique_facade_1,_US_Supreme_CourtSome producers say checkoffs have been unfairly linked to government and are actually just the tools of good old-fashioned capitalism. They argue these arrangements involve only private firms who pool advertising monies without government participation, and their mission and methods are no different from those of any private advertiser. However, the US Supreme Court decisively rejected this position in a 2005 case involving the beef checkoff. In Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Association, the Supreme Court held the beef checkoff’s message was actually government speech(a form of speech the government can make others support). This holding from the highest court in the land leaves little doubt that checkoff programs, and the messages they generate, are the product of the federal government. So when one of these organizations speaks – regardless of the product it’s hawking – it may say it’s the National Pork Board, but the background sounds are the imposing bass tones of the US government.

  1. They Drive Unhealthy Levels of Consumption

400px-Physical_Exam_-_StethoscopePerhaps the most disturbing feature of checkoffs is that most Americans already consume more animal foods than the USDA recommends. Nonetheless, like a desperate salesperson trying to meet an unrealistic quota, the agency keeps using checkoffs to goad people to buy even more. One result is these programs impose billions of dollars in hidden costs on American consumers and taxpayers. Another is that they further sicken an already-ill nation. Ultimately, perhaps the question we should ask ourselves about checkoff programs is: Got Milked?

Can We End Alzheimer’s

PCRM

Can We End Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is the fastest growing health threat in the United States, according to a new landmark report from researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The numbers are staggering. A 2013 study in the journal Neurology found that the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease will jump from 4.7 million to 13.8 million by 2050. Associated health care costs will skyrocket from $200 billion to more than $1 trillion by 2050, increasing the cost of Medicaid and Medicare by 500 percent.

The disease is incurable. But research is at a critical turning point and shows that diet and exercise can play crucial roles in reducing the odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Fighting Debilitating Memory Loss
The latest scientific findings show that diet and lifestyle changes can create a barrier against cognitive decline.

Researchers from the Chicago Health and Aging Project analyzed the diets of thousands of people over years. The findings are groundbreaking: Saturated “bad” fat—found in milk, cheese, and meat—is strongly linked to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, increasing risk more than threefold. Trans fats increase risk fivefold. Avoiding these fats can cut risk dramatically.

Foods rich in vitamin E, such as broccoli, walnuts, almonds, and sunflower seeds, also reduced dementia risk by as much as 70 percent. Other studies show that foods overly rich in iron or copper can promote cognitive loss, while folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 may help protect the memory.

This brain-healthy diet is almost identical to the diet that helps prevent stroke, heart disease, obesity, and other chronic diseases: a low-fat diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Combining this with physical and mental exercise, and avoiding harmful toxins such as aluminum in supplements or cookware, can maximize protection for the brain.

Power Foods for the Brain’s Brain-Boosting Diet
Power Foods for the BrainPower Foods for the Brain, the latest book by Physicians Committee president and nutrition researcher Neal Barnard, M.D., presents this latest, compelling research on nutrition’s surprising effects on the brain. Dr. Barnard lays out a three-step plan to protect the mind and strengthen the memory: Put power foods to work, strengthen your brain, and defeat memory threats. The book also includes 75 power-food recipes, sample mental stimulation exercises, guides to choosing aluminum-free foods and medicines, and a guide to physical exercise.

Learn more about brain health and purchase Power Foods for the Brain at PCRM.org/Brain.

Brain Threats
Saturated fats, found in meats, dairy products, and eggs appear to encourage the production of beta-amyloid plaques within the brain. The Chicago Health and Aging Study reported in the Archives of Neurology in 2003 that people consuming the most saturated fat had more than triple the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared with people who generally avoided these foods.
Trans fats, found in doughnuts and snack pastries, have been shown to increase Alzheimer’s risk more than fivefold. These “bad fats” raise cholesterol levels and apparently increase production of the beta-amyloid protein that collects in plaques in the brain as Alzheimer’s disease begins.
Excess iron can build up in the brain, sparking the production of damaging free radicals. Sources of excess iron include cast-iron cookware, meats, and iron supplements.
Excess copper impairs cognition—even in mid-adulthood—and ends up in the plaques of Alzheimer’s disease. It comes from copper pipes and nutritional supplements.
Aluminum has been found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, so it pays to err on the side of caution. Avoid uncoated aluminum cookware and read labels when buying baking powder, antacids, and processed foods.
Brain-Protecting Foods
Nuts and seeds are rich in vitamin E, which has been shown to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Especially good sources are almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, pistachios, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flaxseed. Just 1 ounce—a small handful—each day is plenty.
Blueberries and grapes get their deep colors from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants shown to improve learning and recall in studies at the University of Cincinnati.
Sweet potatoes are the dietary staple of Okinawans, the longest-lived people on Earth, who are also known for maintaining mental clarity into old age. Sweet potatoes are extremely rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant.
Green leafy vegetables provide iron in a form that is more absorbable when the body needs more and less absorbable when you already have plenty, protecting you from iron overload which can harm the brain. Green vegetables are also loaded with folate, an important brain-protecting B-vitamin.
Beans and chickpeas have vitamin B6 and folate, as well as protein and calcium, with no saturated fat or trans fat.
Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy nerves and brain cells. While many people have trouble absorbing vitamin B12 from foods, B12 in supplements is highly absorbable. Together, folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 eliminate homocysteine, which can build up in the bloodstream—rather like factory waste—and damage the brain.

Cholesterol Confusion: Let’s Make Sense of It

PCRM

 

 

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Dietary confusion just reached a whole new level. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has just announced it is backing off suggesting that traces of cholesterol in foods pose a health risk. The idea is that its effect on blood cholesterol is less dramatic, compared with saturated fat—so maybe an egg here or there is no worse than an occasional drag on a cigarette. Coupled with recent reports questioning how bad “bad fats” really are, many people are unsure what to believe.

Let’s clear up the confusion. Here are the facts, starting with cholesterol:

Cholesterol is not the same as fat. Fat is the white streak in a steak and the grease that dribbles out of a drumstick. But cholesterol is invisible. Cholesterol particles are found in the membranes that surround the cells that make up an animal’s body. Cholesterol is in all animal products and is especially abundant in the lean portions of meats. There are also loads of cholesterol in eggs, cheese, and shellfish, such as shrimp and lobster.

Cholesterol in these foods causes your blood cholesterol level to inch upward.1 The cholesterol-raising effect is not as strong as that of bacon grease and other saturated-fat-laden products, but it is still there. Especially for people whose diets are modest in cholesterol to start with, adding an egg or two a day can cause a noticeable worsening on a cholesterol test.

Some people make a point of saying that cholesterol in foods is not as bad as saturated fat in foods. Maybe, but the issue is academic, because the two travel together. Fat and cholesterol are the Bonnie and Clyde of the culinary world. An egg, for example, has a whopping 200 milligrams of cholesterol and gets nearly 20 percent of its calories from saturated fat. They conspire together to raise your cholesterol level. But most foods from plants—vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains—have virtually none of either one.

Okay, so what about fat? Is it really a health problem or not?

The short answer is yes, it’s a problem. “Bad” fat—that is, saturated fat—raises your blood cholesterol level and increases your risk of health problems, including heart disease andAlzheimer’s disease. Saturated fat is found in meats, dairy products, eggs, and coconut and palm oils. Trans fats—the partially hydrogenated oils used in some snack foods—are bad, too, and people who avoid these products do themselves a favor.

Some news reports have mistakenly suggested that saturated fat isn’t really so bad after all. The confusion came from statistics:

Studies that compare people who indulge in “bad” fats with those who generally avoid them clearly show fat’s tendency to boost heart risks. But studies where fat intake does not vary much from person to person do not show much effect. For example, a Finnish study in which most all the participants followed high-fat diets was unable to detect any benefit of avoiding “bad” fats—largely because there was no group in the study that actually avoided them.

A 2014 meta-analysis combined all the studies—the good ones and the not-so-good ones—and concluded that, if you jumble the data together, the dangers of “bad” fat are no longer clear.2 The study was widely quoted by food writers who saw it as an excuse to try to rehabilitate pork chops’ reputation.

The meta-analysis had another problem. It used adjusted statistics that downplayed the dangers of saturated fat. One of the studies it used was Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study.3 In the original study, a high saturated fat intake boosted heart disease risk by 52%. But the numbers were then adjusted for protein intake, cholesterol intake, and other factors, and these adjustments made the dangers of “bad” fat hard to see. It’s a bit like studying whether alcohol causes car accidents. If you alter the statistics to compensate for whether people weave as they drive or have blurry vision, the relationship between alcohol and accidents can be made to disappear.

So the answer is not to tuck into a hunk of bacon. The answer is to look at good studies, and they clearly show the risks of fatty, meaty diets.

And what’s that about Alzheimer’s disease? In a 2003 study, the Chicago Health and Aging Project reported that people eating the most saturated fat had a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, compared with people who avoided “bad” fat.4

So the bottom line is that “bad” fat and cholesterol are as bad for you as ever. The products that harbor them—meat, dairy products, and eggs—are best left off your plate. People following plant-based diets have healthier body weight, better cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and much less risk of diabetes.5-7

So jump in. At the Physicians Committee, the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart Program starts fresh every single month, providing menus, recipes, and cooking videos free of charge. It is available in English, Spanish, and Mandarin, with a special program for people from the Indian subcontinent—plus our new Japanese program. As the confusion clears up, so will many health concerns.

1. Hopkins PN. Effects of dietary cholesterol on serum cholesterol: a meta-analysis and review. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992;55:1060-70.
2. Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, et al. Association of Dietary, Circulating, and Supplement Fatty Acids With Coronary Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2014;160:398-406.
3. Chiuve SE, Rimm EB, Sandhu RK, et al. Dietary fat quality and risk of sudden cardiac death in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012; 96:498-507.
4. Morris MC, Evans EA, Bienias JL, et al. Dietary fats and the risk of incident Alzheimer’s disease. Arch Neurol. 2003;60:194-200.
5. Tonstad S, Butler T, Yan R, Fraser GE. Type of vegetarian diet, body weight and prevalence of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care 2009;32:791-6.
6. Berkow S, Barnard ND. Vegetarian diets and weight status. Nutr Rev 2006;64:175-188. 7. Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard ND, Takegami M, Watanabe M, Sekikawa A, Okamura T, Miyamoto Y. Vegetarian diets and blood pressure: a meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine 2014;174(4):577-87.

Last updated by at February 12, 2015.

World’s Healthiest Foods rich in vitamin B12

WHFoods

 

The World’s Healthiest Foods

FoodCalsDRI/DV
 Sardines                    189338%
 Salmon                      158236%
 Tuna                         147111%
 Cod9                             6109%
 Lamb                         310105%
 Scallops                      126102%
 Shrimp                         13578%
 Beef                              17560%
 Yogurt                            14938%
 Cow’s milk                        7423%

Basic Description

Vitamin B12, as the name implies, is part of the B complex of vitamins. Like the other B vitamins, it is involved in energy metabolism and other related biological processes.

However, that is where the similarity ends. The list of things that are unique about this vitamin is long, and includes the following facts:

  • Most B vitamins do not store well, but several years’ worth of vitamin B12 can be stored in your body
  • Most B vitamins can be found in a wide variety of plant and animal foods, but since no plant or animal can make vitamin B12 (only microorganisms like fungi and bacteria can do that), it is typically only animal foods that contain B12 since plants cannot make or store this vitamin. However, mushrooms (since they are themselves fungi) often contain B12, as do fermented plant foods like tempeh or miso since they have been produced with the help of microorganisms. Most B vitamins are relatively small and have a fairly simple chemical structure, while vitamin B12 is larger and more complex.
  • Most B vitamins are more easily absorbed than vitamin B12,which has more complicated requirements for absorption.
  • In terms of physical amount, vitamin B12 has the lowest daily requirement of all the B vitamins, and it is needed in about 1/1000th the amount of some other B vitamins.
  • Vitamin B12 is the only vitamin that contains a metal element (cobalt). In fact, the cobalt contained in B12 is the reason that this vitamin goes by the chemical name cobalamin.

As the list above implies, optimal intake of vitamin B12 can sometimes be a challenge in human nutrition. Even though U.S. adults ages 20 and older average well above the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for B12, there are still subgroups within the U.S. that are more commonly at risk of B12 deficiency. For example, adults 51 and older can be at greater risk of B12 deficiency, presumably in relationship to decreased dietary intake and/or compromised digestive function.

The style of diet that you choose can have an major impact on your B12 nourishment. If you regularly consume land animal foods and fish in your meal plan, B12 intake is not very likely to be a problem. If you regularly consume fish but avoid land animal foods, B12 is still relatively unlikely to be a problem. With no fish or land animal foods in your routine diet, however, you are left with some fairly specific food sources of B12, namely, fermented foods such as tempeh and fungi (including mushrooms). We’ll give you some practical steps for obtaining B12 nourishment in the Food Sources section.

We list eight excellent sources of vitamin B12 on World’s Healthiest Foods. We also have three very good and four good sources of the vitamin. Although the number of good sources is smaller than for many foods, this should be plenty to ensure a strong supply of this critical nutrient.

Role in Health Support

Cardiovascular Support

Vitamin B12 plays several important roles in keeping our cardiovascular system on track. The first of these roles involves production of red blood cells. Red blood cells are critical for transporting oxygen throughout our bloodstream, and the oxygen-carrying pigment in the center of our red blood cells is called hemoglobin. A key building block for hemoglobin is a compound called succinylCoA, and without enough vitamin B12, we simply cannot make enough of this building block. (Methylmalonyl CoA mutase is the enzyme that allows this process to take place, and it only functions with the help of B12 in the form of adenosylcobalamin.)

The fact that B12 plays such a key role in red blood cell production means that deficiency of this vitamin can actually cause a form of anemia called B12 deficiency anemia. However, this form of anemia is relatively rare. Often, when it appears to occur, it is actually a by-product of pernicious anemia in which immune system antibodies interfere with the production or function of intrinsic factor (IF). IF is a glycoprotein produced by specialized stomach cells called parietal cells and it is required for proper metabolism of vitamin B12.

A second important role for B12 in cardiovascular support involves prevention of excessive homocysteine build-up. A long list of cardiovascular diseases have been associated with excessive accumulation of homocysteine in the bloodstream, including coronary heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, and stroke. Vitamin B12 helps normalize levels of homocysteine in the blood by allowing conversion of homocysteine to methionine. (This conversion process takes place through activity of the enzyme methionine synthase.)

DNA Production

Vitamin B12 is a necessary co-factor for the production of DNA, the genetic material that acts as the backbone of all life. This process requires folate and vitamin B6 as well, and disruptions of any of these nutrients can lead to problems.

The diagnosis of vitamin B12 deficiency is often dependent on problems with DNA production. When vitamin B12 is low, normally rapidly dividing blood cells are not able to effectively reproduce their DNA, leading to abnormally big cells. This phenomenon, called macrocytosis, is often the first way doctors suspect problems with the vitamin.

Brain and Nervous System Health

Along with the heart, liver, muscles, and kidneys, the brain is an organ that utilizes a large amount of energy in a form called aerobic energy. Aerobic energy means oxygen-requiring energy production in specialized cell parts called mitochondria. As described earlier in the Cardiovascular Support section, one role that B12 plays is maintenance of hemoglobin in red blood cells to allow successful transport of oxygen. This process is especially important in brain health.

Another role of B12 described in the Cardiovascular Support section was prevention of excessive homocysteine build-up in the blood through conversion of homocysteine to methione. However, one aspect of this process not described earlier is the simultaneous recycling of a molecule called SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) that takes place along with homocysteine conversion. SAMe has sometimes been referred to as the “universal methyl donor” because of its unique ability to provide special chemical groups—called methyl groups—in many different places where they are needed. One such place is the brain and nervous system, where movement of methyl groups is a key process. Some of the nervous system messengers (neurotransmitters) cannot be produced without the help of enzymes called methyltransferases, and these enzymes in turn cannot be produced without the availability of methyl groups. This area of methyl metabolism is another key way in which vitamin B12 plays a major role in the health of our brain and nervous system.

These nervous system connections to B12 help explain some of the clinical symptoms associated with B12 deficiency. When levels of vitamin B12 get very low, nerve damage can ensue. The insulation sheath around nerve fibers begins to break down, making it harder for signals to get to more distant areas of the body (called peripheral areas). As you might guess, symptoms first become apparent in the hands and feet. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, researchers know that severe B12 deficiency can cause these “peripheral neuropathies” and that restoring optimal supplies of B12 can keep these problems from becoming more severe.

Support of Energy Metabolism

While mentioned earlier, it’s important to underscore the role of B12 in support of oxygen-based energy production (called aerobic energy). At the heart of this process is a metabolic cycle called the citric acid cycle and included within this cycle is a molecule called succinyl-coA. Since vitamin B12 is important for maintaining proper supplies of succinyl-coA in the citric acid cycle, it is important for supporting all aerobic energy metabolism.

Other Potential Health Benefits

Still under debate by researchers is the exact role of B12 in support of bone health. On the one hand, B12 deficiency appears to be associated with increased risk of osteoporosis. This connection involves the positive role of B12 (in several of its cobalamin forms) in supporting the activity of the osteoblast (bone-forming) cells. At the same time, B12 also appears to help regulate activity of tumor necrosis factor (TNF). TNF overactivity can result in too much bone breakdown and remodeling by a second type of bone cells called osteoclasts. Too much osteoclast activity—regardless of the reason for its occurrence—is also associated with increased risk of osteoporosis. Despite these logical connections between B12 deficiency and osteoporosis risk, however, actual research findings are inconsistent in making the B12 connection to bone status.

Summary of Food Sources

Microorganisms—and especially bacteria and fungi—are the only organisms definitively known to produce vitamin B12. There has been longstanding debate over algal production of B12, which includes debate over the potential role of sea vegetables to provide B12 (as well as debate over dietary supplements like spirulina). However, we interpret the research in this area to show that sea vegetables cannot be counted on for B12 support, not because there is no possibility of B12 production in sea vegetables, but because the form of B12 in sea vegetables is not a usable vitamin form.

Even though land animals and fish cannot make vitamin B12 in their cells, they are often able to save up B12 produced by bacteria and concentrate it in their cells. For this reason, many land animal foods and many seafoods are nutrient-rich in B12. In fact, all but one of our WHFoods ranked sources of B12 come from animal foods or fish. Because plants do not concentrate or utilize vitamin B12 in the same way as animals, plant foods do not become nutrient-rich in B12 unless they have been fermented (like the fermentation of soybeans into tempeh) by B12-producing bacteria or fungi. Excluded from this statement are fungi (for example, mushrooms) since scientists classify them in their own separate category from plants. But if we adopt a less technical perspective and include mushrooms as plant foods, they would also have to be included as sources of B12. At WHFoods, crimini mushrooms are our only ranked non-animal derived food source for B12.

Our recommended daily intake level for B12 is 2.4 micrograms, and one serving of any of the following WHFoods will provide you with 100% or more of this amount: sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, lamb, or scallops. You’ll get over 50% with a single serving of beef or shrimp, about one-third of the daily amount from one cup of yogurt, and between 10-25% from one serving of cheese, chicken, turkey, eggs, or cow’s milk.

In contrast with these animal and fish foods, one cup of crimini mushrooms will only provide you with about 3% of the daily recommend amount. This relatively low contribution from mushrooms (a non-animal food) raises the important question of B12 nourishment for individuals who don’t regularly consume animal foods or fish. In the broadest sense, individuals who focus primarily on plant foods in their meal plan are often referred to as “vegetarians.” However, this term can have a variety of different meanings. “Pesca-vegetarians,” for example, consume fish along with plant foods. “Lacto-vegetarians” consume dairy foods along with plants foods. “Lacto-ovo vegetarians” consume not only dairy foods but also eggs along with plant foods. If a person eats plant foods exclusively, the term usually used to describe his or her meal plan is “vegan.” Most healthcare providers—including most nutritionists—currently recommend that persons who exclusively consume plant foods take steps to ensure their B12 nourishment by adding foods fortified with B12 or B12-containing supplements to their daily routine. As a general rule, we support this approach, although we realize that there can be exceptions.

Nutritional yeast grown on a molasses medium is an example of a food-based quasi-supplement that would provide a vegan source of vitamin B12. One widely available brand has more than twice the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for B12 in one and one-half tablespoons of yeast. Not all nutritional yeasts are rich in vitamin B12, however, and you’ll need to check labels for details.

Before leaving the topic of B12 and food sources, we want to go one step further in explaining some ongoing speculation about the relationship between B12, bacteria, and human nutrition. As described earlier, bacteria and other microorganisms are the only life forms that can be described as definitively able to produce B12. Interestingly, however, research studies have shown that bacteria capable of producing B12 can live inside our human intestinal tract. (One example of a bacterium known to produce B12 and also able to colonize parts of our digestive tract is Propionibacterium shermanii.) Furthermore, it seems likely that B12-producing bacteria are able reside in the very last segment of our small intestine known as the terminal ileum.The terminal ileum is especially important for vitamin B12 nourishment since it is the primary site for B12 absorption. In this last segment of our small intestine, however, there aren’t nearly as many bacteria as are present in our large intestine. (We’re talking about a minimum of 10,000 times less, and probably more like one million times less.) So exactly how much B12 contribution could potentially be made by B12-producing bacteria in the terminal ileum is an open question. While we don’t see any justification for relying on bacterial production of B12 in our intestines as a source of this vitamin, it is also impossible for us to totally rule out this possible pathway for B12 nourishment and hopefully we will get some further clarification here in future research.

Nutritional yeast grown on a molasses medium is an example of a food-based quasi-supplement approach that would provide a vegan source of vitamin B12. One widely available brand has more than twice the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for B12 in one and one-half tablespoons of yeast. Note that not all nutritional yeasts are rich in vitamin B12, and that you’ll need to check labels for details.

The National Academy of Sciences currently recommends that people over the age of 50 receive much of their vitamin B12 from supplements or fortified foods. Currently, about 40% of the vitamin B12 that Americans eat comes from these non-food sources. In addition to the fortified yeast discussed above, soy products and breakfast cereals often contain this type of added vitamin B12.

Introduction to Nutrient Rating System Chart

In order to better help you identify foods that feature a high concentration of nutrients for the calories they contain, we created a Food Rating System. This system allows us to highlight the foods that are especially rich in particular nutrients. The following chart shows the World’s Healthiest Foods that are either an excellent, very good, or good source of vitamin B12. Next to each food name, you’ll find the serving size we used to calculate the food’s nutrient composition, the calories contained in the serving, the amount of vitamin B12 contained in one serving size of the food, the percent Daily Value (DV%) that this amount represents, the nutrient density that we calculated for this food and nutrient, and the rating we established in our rating system. For most of our nutrient ratings, we adopted the government standards for food labeling that are found in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Reference Values for Nutrition Labeling.” Read more background information and details of our rating system.

World’s Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of
vitamin B12
Food Serving
Size
Cals Amount
(mcg)
DRI/DV
(%)
Nutrient
Density
World’s
Healthiest
Foods Rating
Sardines 3.20 oz 188.7 8.11 338 32.2 excellent
Salmon 4 oz 157.6 5.67 236 27.0 excellent
Tuna 4 oz 147.4 2.66 111 13.5 excellent
Cod 4 oz 96.4 2.62 109 20.4 excellent
Lamb 4 oz 310.4 2.51 105 6.1 excellent
Scallops 4 oz 125.9 2.44 102 14.5 excellent
Shrimp 4 oz 134.9 1.88 78 10.4 excellent
Beef 4 oz 175.0 1.44 60 6.2 very good
Yogurt 1 cup 149.4 0.91 38 4.6 very good
Cow’s milk 4 oz 74.4 0.55 23 5.5 very good
Eggs 1 each 77.5 0.55 23 5.3 very good
Turkey 4 oz 166.7 0.42 18 1.9 good
Chicken 4 oz 187.1 0.39 16 1.6 good
Cheese 1 oz 114.2 0.24 10 1.6 good
Mushrooms, Crimini 1 cup 15.8 0.07 3 3.3 good
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
Rule
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

Impact of Cooking, Storage and Processing

Even though the structure of vitamin B12 is complicated, it is a relatively stable molecule to storage and cooking. Most of the B12 losses that we have seen from the cooking of B12-rich foods fall into the range of 10-50%. At the 50% end of the spectrum, most of the studies have involved boiling. Since B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, that finding makes sense to us, and it is one of the reasons that we generally prefer steaming over boiling, and when we do boil, it is for a relatively short period of time. The Healthy Sauté methods and braising methods that we use for fish generally take only 5-10 minutes of cooking time, and the same is true for steaming in recipes where fish are steamed. For meats, we often use a Quick Broil method that only involves dry heat. In short, we believe that you can count on substantial B12 nourishment from our B12-rich foods if you take advantage of our WHFoods cooking methods.

Risk of Dietary Deficiency

For most U.S. adults, the risk of dietary deficiency of vitamin B12 is quite low. The median intake of vitamin B12 in the United States and Canada has been variously estimated between 3 and 7 mcg per day. As such, most people are getting plenty of this vitamin to prevent deficiency.

The only group where we see any substantial risk of dietary vitamin B12 deficiency is in strict vegans (who consume no animal or fish foods whatsoever). In a group of 232 British vegans, most of whom were younger than age 50, a little more than half had biochemical evidence of dietary vitamin B12 deficiency. The deficiency risk was nearly ten times as high in vegans as vegetarians, and more than 50 times higher compared to those who regularly ate animal foods.

Ovo-lacto vegetarians (or people who don’t eat animal meat or fish, but do include dairy and eggs in their diet) are at a slightly increased risk of dietary vitamin B12 deficiency, but B12-related medical problems are not common in this group. When medical problems do show up, it is most commonly in people who had eaten a vegetarian diet throughout their entire life, rather than adopting it later on as adults. This pattern makes sense to us, because our bodies are capable of storing large amounts of B12. In fact, it is common for adults to store thousands of times more B12 than their daily requirement. Because significant amounts of B12 are also be recycled around the body, the unusually large body supply of this vitamin can mean years before B12 depletion. So it is logical for an adult vegetarian who ate animal foods and fish growing up to go for long periods before risking B12 depletion, even if B12 intake has been inadequate.

Other Circumstances that Might Contribute to Deficiency

The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms in the U.S. is not a dietary deficiency, but a problem related to malabsorption. This condition is called pernicious anemia, and it is a relatively common condition in older adults. An estimated 10-30% of people over the age of 50 have some amount of malabsorption of this vitamin.

In pernicious anemia, various immune system reactions cause damage to the stomach lining. As a result of this damage, specialized cells in the stomach called parietal cells become unable to produce intrinsic factor (IF). Since IF is needed for B12 absorption, this process results in poor absorption of B12, and the need for much greater amounts of B12 than can be obtained from food. Of course, diagnosis of this condition and the appropriate remedy for pernicious anemia requires the help of a licensed healthcare provider.

Pernicious anemia is not the only absorption-related problem associated with risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. As mentioned at the outset of this article, B12 is an unusual B-complex vitamin in terms of its absorption. Here is a short summary of the complicated nature of B12 absorption:

(1) Stomach acids are needed to release B12 from our food and allow it to bind with a glycoprotein called haptocorrin provided in saliva and in stomach fluids.

(2) When leaving the stomach, protease enzymes provided by the pancreas are needed to separate B12 from haptocorrin and allow it to bind together with intrinsic factor (IF). IF is a specialized glycoprotein release by specialized stomach cells called parietal cells, and its job is to bind together with B12 and facilitate its absorption.

(3) At the very end of the small intestine (called the terminal ileum), intestinal cells have special locations on their outer membranes (consisting of two proteins called cubulin and amionless) and these proteins serve as the location for taking the IF-bound form of B12 out of the intestine and up into the cells.

(4) Once inside the intestinal cells, B12 must be reconfigured and attached to a different protein called transcobalamin for passage through the bloodstream.

These many different digestive tract steps make B12 absorption readily influenced by digestive tract problems. For example, overgrowth of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori in the stomach has been associated with increased risk of B12 deficiency. Insufficient secretion of protein-digesting enzymes by the pancreas has also been shown to compromise B12 status. Various other stomach problems have also been associated with increased deficiency risk for this vitamin.

The connection between B12 deficiency risk and digestive problems is believed to be a primary reason for increased risk of B12 deficiency with aging (especially after age 50), since digestive problems also tend to increase during this time period.

While oral contraceptive (OC) use is sometimes mentioned as a risk factor for B12 deficiency, the research seems mixed in this regard. On the one hand, blood levels of B12 have been shown to sometimes drop below the normal range with OC use. But at the same time, these drops in blood levels appear to be temporary and to pose no chronic problems. Interestingly, lower blood levels of B12 in women who use OCs appear to occur independently from dietary intake. In other words, these lower levels of B12 do not appear to change, even if dietary intake of B12 is increased. More research is being done to determine the significant of these findings.

Pregnancy and lactation (breastfeeding) increase the need for B12, and the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommendations for pregnancy and lactation are 2.6 micrograms and 2.8 micrograms, respectively.

Because folate and B12 work so closely together, both folate deficiency and folate excess can increase the need for B12. While folate excess has been controversial in health research primarily in relationship to dietary supplementation of this vitamin in high doses, some scientists believe that folate fortification of food (in the absence of simultaneous B12 fortification) can also create imbalances in the ratio of B12-to-folate. As a remedy, they have recommended simultaneous fortification with both folate and B12 if fortification is determined to be desirable. The bottom line here is to combine a reasonable variety of foods in your meal plan that are nutrient-rich in both B vitamins. Our Healthy Sauteéd Seafood with Asparagus recipe, for example, combines three of our top 10 seafoods rich in B12 (cod, scallops, and shrimp) with our second richest source of folate (asparagus).

Relationship with Other Nutrients

As described earlier in our Health Benefits section, vitamin B12 is involved in the process of energy production. Yet B12 is not the only B-complex vitamin involved in this process, and for this reason, a deficiency of one or more of the other B vitamins may compound energy-production problems that are related to B12 deficiency. In other words, some symptoms of B12 deficiency can be made worse due to other B-vitamin deficiencies.

In particular, the relationship between folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 is very close. A deficiency in any one of the three can impair the activity of the others. Most alarmingly, when people use high dose supplements of folic acid, it can be harder to spot vitamin B12 deficiency, leading to more serious symptoms. As described earlier in this article, controversy has also arisen over the role of folate fortification of foods, which has some researchers recommending simultaneous fortification of both folate and B12 whenever fortification with either nutrient is being considered.

Some older sources report that vitamin C can damage or impair absorption of vitamin B12. Further research discounted this hypothesis, so you can probably disregard this if you see it.

Risk of dietary Toxicity

There is no known toxicity risk from dietary vitamin B12. In fact, doctors routinely inject people with deficiency symptoms with very large doses of the vitamin—500 times the daily required intake or more—without evidence of toxicity. You can be confident that your diet does not contain too much vitamin B12.

Disease Checklist

  • Pernicious anemia
  • Atrophic gastritis
  • Neuropathy
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Kidney disease
  • Memory loss
  • Tinnitus
  • Migraine
  • Macular degeneration
  • Asthma
  • Shingles
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Public Health Recommendations

In 1998, the National Academy of Sciences established a set of Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) that included Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) by age for vitamin B12. These are summarized in the chart below. Values for infants under one year old were established in the form of Adequate Intake (AI) levels. The full set of DRI recommendations is listed below:

  • 0-6 months: 0.4 mcg
  • 6-12 months: 0.5 mcg
  • 1-3 years: 0.9 mcg
  • 4-8 years: 1.2 mcg
  • 9-13 years: 1.8 mcg
  • 14+ years: 2.4 mcg
  • Pregnant women: 2.6 mcg
  • Lactating women: 2.8 mcg

Note that the National Academy of Sciences has advised people over the age of 50 to meet their intake requirements mainly via either fortified foods or using a vitamin B12 supplement. This recommendation is due to the high number of people in this age group with malabsorption of the vitamin.

There is no established Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) for vitamin B12. In fact, doctors rather routinely supplement or inject people with pernicious anemia with amounts of vitamin B12 that are several hundred-fold greater than the DRI recommendations. As such, there is no known reason to be concerned about excessive intake of vitamin B12.

The Daily Value (DV) of 6 mcg per day is the value you’ll see on food labels. Please note that the more recent DRI values are much lower, and probably a better reflection of your daily needs. We chose the adult DRI (ages 14 and older) of 2.4 micrograms as our daily recommended amount at WHFoods.

References

  • Aslinia F, Mazza JJ, Yale SH. Megaloblastic anemia and other causes of macrocytosis. Clin Med Res 2006;4:236-41.
  • Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, and choline. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1998;58-86.
  • Fulgoni VL, Keast DR, Bailey RL, et al. Foods, fortificants, and supplements: where do Americans get their nutrients. J Nutr 2001;141:1847-54.
  • Gilsing AM, Crowe FL, Lloyd-Wright Z, et al. Serum concentrations of vitamin B12 and folate in British male omnivores, vegetarians and vegans: results from a cross-sectional analysis of the EPIC-Oxford cohort study. Eur J Clin Nutr 2010;64:933-9.
  • Gueant JL and Alpers DH. Vitamin B12, a fascinating micronutrient, which influences human health in the very early and later stages of life. Biochimie, Volume 95, Issue 5, May 2013, Pages 967-969.
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  • Keser I, Ilich JZ, Vrikic N et al. Folic acid and vitamin B12 supplementation lowers plasma homocysteine but has no effect on serum bone turnover markers in elderly women: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition Research, Volume 33, Issue 3, March 2013, Pages 211-219.
  • Kozyraki R and Cases O. Vitamin B12 absorption: Mammalian physiology and acquired and inherited disorders. Biochimie, Volume 95, Issue 5, May 2013, Pages 1002-1007.
  • Leskova E, Kubikova J, Kovacikova E, et al. Vitamin losses: retention during heat treatment and continual changes expressed by mathematical models. J Food Comp Anal 2006;19:252-76.
  • Lund EK. Health benefits of seafood; Is it just the fatty acids? Food Chemistry, Volume 140, Issue 3, 1 October 2013, Pages 413-420.
  • McArthur JO, Tang H, Petocz P, et al.Biological variability and impact of oral contraceptives on vitamins B(6), B(12) and folate status in women of reproductive age. Nutrients. 2013 Sep 16;5(9):3634-45. doi: 10.3390/nu5093634.
  • O’Leary F, Samman S. Vitamin B12 in health and disease. Nutrients 2010;2:299-316.
  • Pawlak R, Parrott SJ, Raj S, et al. How prevalent is vitamin B12 deficiency among vegetarians? Nutr Rev 2013;71:110-7.
  • Ray JG, Cole DEC, and Boss SC. An Ontario-wide study of vitamin B12, serum folate, and red cell folate levels in relation to plasma homocysteine: is a preventable public health issue on the rise? Clinical Biochemistry, Volume 33, Issue 5, July 2000, Pages 337-343.
  • Ray JG, Vermeulen MJ, Langman LJ, et al. Persistence of vitamin B12 insufficiency among elderly women after folic acid food fortification. Clinical Biochemistry, Volume 36, Issue 5, July 2003, Pages 387-391.
  • Thierry A, Deutsch SM, Falentin H, et al. New insights into physiology and metabolism of Propionibacterium freudenreichii. Int J Food Microbiol. 2011 Sep 1;149(1):19-27. doi: 10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2011.04.026. Epub 2011 May 8.
  • Watanabe F, Yabuta Y, Tanioka Y, et al. Biologically active vitamin B12 compounds in foods for preventing deficiency among vegetarians and elderly subjects. J Agric Food Chem 2013;61:6769-75.