There’s an interesting report of neurologic damage in two children of women who adhered to vegan or vegetarian diets in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The link between the cases was a deficiency in vitamin B12 (cobalamin) in the womens’ diets; whereas there is much known about adult B12 deficiency, its rarity in infants means that it takes random case reports like these to see the sheer extent of damage that can be caused. And while it’d be easy to pass judgment on people who eat vegan diets, there’s an even easier lesson here — if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, take your vitamin B12.


Thanks for saying this. I was in the hospital this summer with a nasty strep infection I got through a skin break, and 1 doctor told my wife that I had probably gotten it because I was vegan, and my infectious diseases doctor referred regularly to my “crazy diet.” At one point she mentioned that I was showing a slight iron deficiency, which she said I could take care of by “eating some fish a few times a week.” When I asked if I could also take care of it by taking an iron supplement, she just grunted. I was vulnerable from being so sick, and I was scared by both these doctors at first, so much so that I considered eating meat and dairy. (I was also considering it due to the hospital’s almost total inability to deal with a vegetarian diet, but that’s another story.) Fortunately my internist, a 25 year vegetarian, when he heard the first doctor’s remark, chewed him out and told me there was no reason for me not to follow a vegan diet. Your vegan patients are lucky.

• Posted by: jbm on Feb 1, 2003, 2:42 PM
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