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From: flow (198.58.109.179)
Subject:         Re: for the vegan bashers
Date: April 18, 2015 at 7:24 pm PST

In Reply to: Re: for the vegan bashers posted by flow on April 18, 2015 at 6:13 pm:

In spite of how easy it is to obtain in
supplement form, B-12 remains a topic of endless
debate, in part because critics of veganism have
used it as evidence that veganism is “unnatural".

Does this mean that we weren’t designed to be
vegetarians, and that plant-based diets are
inferior? In order to answer these questions, we
need to look at the ultimate source for all
vitamin B12, which is bacteria.

The daily requirements of B12 for humans is very
low, and in the past when we didn’t live in such
a sterile and germophobic society it is likely
that soil and other bacterial contamination of
plant foods provided all the B12 needed. But our
environments are different in the modern age. We
are not only living much more sanitarily and
bacteria-free, but our agricultural soils have
also become sterilized

In our former agrarian society when bacteria-
rich soils were worked by hand, there simply
wasn’t an issue with humans getting enough B12,
because it was supplied by soil contamination of
our foods and skin. The issue of vegans requiring
vitamin B12 supplementation is therefore not an
indicator of a plant-based diet being inferior or
unhealthy. The two really have nothing to do with
each other. The fact that modern vegans require
B12 supplementation is related to the sterility
of our environment, not to the overall
nutritional quality of the foods we eat. Humans
haven’t changed, but our environment has.

The B-12 issue is a good example of the fact that
our dietary needs can shift with our environment;
pondering what is “ideal” or “natural” is
fallacious without considering specifics of soil,
air, lifestyle, and food production.

To use another example, Vitamin D deficiency is
so prevalent right now that a physician friend
has called it an “epidemic,” and suggested that
two thirds of her patients had been deficient at
some point or another. The deficiency seems to
affect everyone all over the US, not just vegans.
So does that mean that omnivorous and vegetarian
diets are inherently “unnatural,” too?

Probably not. Vitamin D deficiency is rising for
a number of reasons, the primary of which is
sunlight deprivation. As counterintuitive as it
seems, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency
illustrates an important reality, which is that
the culprit behind vitamin deficiencies is not
always to be found in what we are or aren’t
eating.

If we start to make the claim that any diet that
demands regular or occasional nutrient
supplementation is by definition an inadequate
diet, we’ll soon find that we’re condemning
nearly all diets, because deficiencies can creep
in regardless of how responsibly we eat. One of
the advantages of living in the modern world is
that we can identify potential gaps in our diets—
be they due to environment, socioeconomic status,
circumstances, or individual health conditions—
and fill those gaps in with supplements and
fortified foods. Vitamin deficiencies or nutrient
gaps are nothing new: throughout time, most
people throughout the world have found it hard to
obtain one or a few nutrients with food alone.
Nowadays, science gives us tools to help manage
those challenges.

And let’s suppose for a moment that vegan diets
do demand a little more planning than other diets
—so what? Taking a B-12 supplement and
considering a DHA or D2 supplement seems like a
very small price to pay when we consider
veganism’s many advantages—namely, the fact that
vegan diets help to spare billions of sentient
beings pain, suffering, and early death. For this
reason alone, I’m happy to take B-12, but it’s
not the only reason: vegan diets are also
beneficial to the environment, and they offer us
plenty of health advantages that outweigh the
small hassle of a B-12 supplement, such as
reduced changes of obesity and high cholesterol
on average. Fretting endlessly about whether or
not veganism is the “ideal” or “natural” diet is
counterproductive and futile, since it’s unlikely
that science will show us conclusively what the
“ideal” diet—if such a thing has ever existed—is
anytime soon. What strikes me as a far more
urgent question is “what is the most responsible,
ethical, and intelligent diet I can eat healthily
in this day and age?”

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