- In the region of 66% of those following vegan, vegetarian or other plant-based diets are thought to be deficient in vitamin B12, 80 among some groups the figure can be as high as 90%. 81
- Symptoms of B12 deficiency – which emerge slowly over months and even years – can include fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, difficulty maintaining balance, depression, confusion and in the long term, dementia.
- All versions of Human Food contain 100% RI 79 of Vitamin B12.
- HF is the only known food product in the world to contain vitamin B12 from an organic, wholefood source
There are lots of reasons people decide to switch from a diet including meat and other animal products to one which is predominantly or entirely plant-based, the most common are health, animal rights and environmental concern. While the huge numbers of people who now identify as flexitarian 82 attest to the fact that the appeal of plant-based diets is now mainstream, the fact that this relatively new category has emerged at all reveals that many people find it hard to fully embrace stricter forms of vegetarianism. One significant barrier is choice or even availability of vegetarian or vegan options. While in most major cities a number of dedicated restaurants and cafes can now be found – in recent years extended by the emergence of the vegan junk food sector – though these are still thinly spread and typical, non-specialist outlets will offer perhaps one or two choices. And although some regions have been quicker to adapt or have traditional cuisine containing plant-based dishes – such as the Middle East, the Indian sub-continent, and some parts of S.E. Asia – outside of the major cites choice can become increasingly limited and often disappear altogether. Most long-term vegans and vegetarians will remember a time when they could find nothing to eat beyond a bag of nuts or a piece of fruit.
Historically, another major concern for those looking to switch to a vegan, vegetarian or other plant-based diet which has often been expressed by critics, relates to a more generalised view of compromised health, strength and robustness. In his essay Reflections on Gandhi, George Orwell typifies this misconception, criticising Gandhi for advising family members against doctors’ instructions to eat chicken broth when ill. 83 While numerous studies have shown that plant-based diets are significantly more healthy than typical omnivorous diets, the broad, misconceived, self-fulfilling equation of strength and vitality with a meat-filled diet is only just beginning to be eroded.
Vegetarian and vegan sports people have played an important role in challenging such thinking and while it might be less surprising to hear of the likes of Fiona Oakes (distance running), Steph Davis (climbing) and Catra Corbett (ultramarathon) who are all record-breakers in endurance events where maintaining low body fat and a high strength-to-weight ratio is critical, examples such as Carl Lewis (athletics), Venus Williams (tennis), David Haye (heavy-weight boxing), Patrik Baboumian (bodybuilding/ weightlifting/ strongman), Ricky Williams (NFL) and Tony Gonzalez (NFL) are testament to the fact that a plant-based diet is no barrier to sporting success in any discipline, even those that reward extreme body mass and explosive strength.
For the most part, a combination of first-hand experience, the example of sports people and overwhelming evidence from scientific study have overturned preconceptions about health, showing plant-based diets to aid weight control, reduce disease risk factors, promote longevity and generally lead to improved health as compared to omnivorous diets. However studies have shown that on one count such diets are open to criticism; that is in their lack of the essential nutrient vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficiency in people following vegetarian or vegan diets is incredibly common and can have serious and even irreversible effects. 84 A detailed meta-analysis published in the prestigious science journal Nature in 2014 combined research from 40 previous studies and found the following figures for deficiencies in those adhering to a variety of plant-based diets which they categorised primarily by age: