Of all the controversies surrounding the frugivore diet, the most persistent and pervasive "hot button issue" is the issue of vitamin B-12. The idea that a raw fruit and vegetable based lifestyle will cause any type of deficiency is often brought up and expounded upon and can, on the surface, seem to discredit a diet containing no animal products. Even those ostensibly claiming to promote vegan diets have sometimes fallen prey to the idea, proposing that vegans must supplement, or resort to unappealing practices like eating soil or insects.
The efforts to imply, or outright state, that the frugivore diet will result in a B-12 deficiency are sometimes deliberate and sometimes unintentional. Either way, they serve to damage the credibility and perceived adequacy of a fruit and vegetable based diet, and should be addressed.
Also, it is an unfortunate fact that there are facets of society and commerce whose best interests are tied up with promoting a continued reliance on meat, dairy, and cooked foods. Becoming well informed will reduce susceptibility to misinformation, and can help people to avoid the trap of fear that might lead them to the mistaken conclusion that a diet without animal products is somehow flawed and insufficient.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, a properly planned frugivore lifestyle will ensure a lifetime of optimum levels of all vitamins, including B-12. The ironic point about this issue is that the diet most likely to result in a B-12 deficiency is, in fact, the standard diet consumed by most of the world, heavy on meat and animal fat. If one were to rely solely on information garnered from those parties promoting animal products, one would believe the exact opposite. Fortunately, science, chemistry, and biology reveal the truth of the matter.
It should first be mentioned that even if a diet without animal foods were somehow deficient in vitamin B-12 (which it is not,) it would take years for the deficiency to manifest. Vitamin B12 is recycled by the body, in a process known as enterohepatic circulation. This means that even on a diet low in B12, the body can absorb adequate amounts for up to 20 years (if the diet is balanced and the individual is healthy.) If the individual is not healthy, and is not consuming sufficient nutrition, and is suffering from gastritis or other digestive disorder, then an individual may become B12 deficient in as little as 3 years.
This is a far cry from the often-frightening stories told. The misinformation out there can often dissuade anyone from even attempting to live a frugivore lifestyle, and causes many to believe that a B12 deficiency might manifest in days, weeks, or months. But because of enterohepatic circulation, it is clear that even with zero B12 intake, the body will not experience a lack of B12 for anywhere between 3 and 20 years!
It becomes clearer, then, that the majority of tales told of people experiencing B12 deficiency must not be due to any lack of the vitamin in their diet. And the research backs this up: multiple studies have made it clear that the vast majority of vitamin deficiency of any kind, including B12, is due not to a lack of the vitamin in the diet, but rather to an inability of the body to properly absorb the vitamin in the intestinal tract. And, as mentioned, it is a diet heavy in meat, alcohol, milk, and prescription drugs such as antibiotics, that will most likely result in a maladjusted absorption system. In fact, there has never been any correlation demonstrated between a lack of B12 in the diet, and a manifested B12 deficiency. The common factor to all cases of B12 deficiency is malabsorbtion and a lack of overall health and vitality.
It should be mentioned here that supplementation is never a long-term solution. Of course if somebody is exhibiting vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, and have been tested and proven to be dangerously deficient, then the intelligent decision might be to temporarily supplement to prevent permanent physical harm. But long term, supplementation will
not eliminate the cause of the deficiency. In fact, most B12 supplements contain B12 in a form not readily useable by the human body. This form is called cyanocobalamin, and is semi-synthetic, bound up with the toxic poison, cyanide. It will result in elevated B12 measurements in the blood stream, temporarily. But after 24 hours only 10% or less of the actual B12 will remain in the cells, the rest having been eliminated by the body due to the synthetic elements.
The improved energy and sense of well being experienced after taking a cyanocobalamin B12 supplement is due to stimulation. The body responds to the toxic by releasing a massive rush of energy, in an attempt to neutralize and eliminate the poison. Because of this, people are often under the impression that the supplement has "cured" them, when in actuality they are no better off than before.
Many people attempt to "supplement" B12 by consuming marine algaeâ€™s. Contrary to the information provided by seaweed and algae merchants, no algae or seaweed contains any useable B12. The B12 in these foods is in analogue form, and has been determined to be completely unusable to human beings.
Because B12 is actually a form of bacteria, it is found in trace amounts in all plant foods. Contrary to misinformation and myth, some plant foods are even significant sources of the vitamin. Fresh dates, ripe bananas, green vegetables, and sprouts all contain B12 in quantities sufficient to support the human body even if there were no other bacterial source (which there is, as will shortly be addressed.) Beyond these specific foods, all fruits and vegetables contain minute quantities of B12, enough to easily meet any dietary need, as the human body needs less than one microgram (one millionth of a gram) each day. Modern technology and measuring techniques have revealed B12 in all of these foods, and articles or books stating otherwise are propagating outdated, invalid information.
Most importantly of all, however, is the hidden fact that in any healthy human body, production and absorption of vitamin B12 will take place on a large scale in the small intestine, in the folds of the tongue, around the teeth and tonsils, in the esophagus, the bronchial tubes and all along the intestinal tract. Even without any dietary source of B12 (which, as demonstrated, would be practically impossible, as all plant foods contain B12), it would still be virtually impossible for a person living on a frugivore diet to experience a B12 deficiency.
Contrast this with the relative ease with which one can develop a B12 deficiency on any other diet. Consuming massive amounts of meat, dairy, and other fats and proteins, the acidic conditions in the digestive tract create an environment in which it is difficult for B12 to exist. Constantly bombarded by excesses of denatured and refined foods, the body can no longer efficiently absorb nutrients of any kind, let alone minute quantities of B12. Combined with the large quantities of prescription drugs and natural antibiotics such as alcohol, garlic and onions (to make the unnatural food palatable) that most people consume, is it any wonder that the vast majority of B12 deficiencies occur in meat eaters?
Of course, unhealthy vegan diets can result in similar gastrointestinal situations, so there are a few genuine cases of B12 deficiency in people following vegetarian and vegan diets. But no more so than on any unhealthy diet, and certainly less so than on the standard junk food diet. Vegans are not immune to the effects of antibiotics, high fat consumption, and alcohol.
Also, many aspiring frugivores and vegans place massive stress on their bodies by consuming frozen "treats" made out of freezing cold fruits and juices. These are no different than the cold iced coffees and ice creams consumed by the mainstream population, insofar as they inhibit the digestive tract from properly absorbing nutrients. Frozen and cold foods also destroy bacteria, including B12 bacteria. For a frugivore, the regular consumption of frozen foods may be the factor, which makes the difference between a healthful, balanced system, and one, which is severely compromised.
Other factors, such as one's work situation, stress levels, anxiety and fear also play major roles in nutrient levels. Diet is not everything in health, and it is possible to have what could be considered a perfect diet, and yet still suffer from major health problems as a result of one's unstable or unbalanced lifestyle and habits. A lack of adequate sleep will guarantee nutritional problems at some point in time, as will constant and extreme stress. Because B12 needs are so minute, it is possible that even a small decrease in the body's ability to absorb nutrients will result in a long term, chronic failure to meet the B12 needs of a stressed system.
With this information it is possible to recognize that the fault doesn't lie with a vegan diet, but rather it rests firmly on the degree to which an individual follows the laws of nature in all aspects of life, not on any deficiency due to a lack of meat.