Vegans are being warned they face permanent numbness in their hands and feet due to a lack of a vital vitamin in their diets.Experts say followers of
Vegans are being warned they face permanent numbness in their hands and feet due to a lack of a vital vitamin in their diets.
Experts say followers of the plant-based diet must take vitamin B12 supplements to prevent the onset of peripheral neuropathy.
The irreversible condition develops when nerves become damaged, which causes permanent numbness or ‘pins and needles’.
Most people get vitamin B12, which keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy, from cow’s milk.
But plant-based milk substitutes do not have enough of the vitamin protect people from becoming deficient.
Most people get vitamin B12, which keeps nerves the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy, from cow’s milk
But vegans are being warned they face permanent numbness in their hands and feet because plant-based alternatives do not have enough of the vital vitamin that keeps nerves healthy
Young festival-goers following a vegan diet are most at risk, said Tom Sanders, a professor emeritus of nutrition and dietetics at King’s College London.
He said: ‘Kids these days inhale laughing gas.
‘There is a danger of young people going vegan, not having B12 and it could tip the balance to them getting a serious neuropathy.’
Laughing gas can cause vitamin B12 deficiency, too.
It could be easily fixed if manufacturers of plant-based milks upped the vitamin B12 quantity in their products by three times.
Professor Sanders said a small UK study on 172 vegan men had shown around a fifth of participants were likely to be ‘seriously deficient’.
He said he was ‘really quite shocked’ at the findings, from 2003, and ‘concerned that many vegans think it’s a myth’.
The warning comes as thousands of Britons gear up to take up veganism in the new year as part of Veganuary.
They should look into adding supplements to their diet if they continue past the first month, according to Tim Key, professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford.
He said: ‘You’re not going to get vitamin B12 deficiency in one month in Veganuary,
‘But if people become vegan because of that and never actually bother to read up on what you need to eat as a vegan, I would be worried they don’t know about B12, and it’s clearly important.
‘I’m worried that doesn’t always happen with people becoming vegan now, they just think vegan food is OK, I’ll eat it, and that’s it.’
The experts, speaking at a Science Media Centre briefing, also warned that vegans should be aware of the rise of vegan ‘fast food’.
They said there has been a ‘rapid, large increase in processed foods that look like animal foods but are not really designed to be nutritionally equivalent or better’.
Peripheral neuropathy affects around one in 10 people over 55, as circulation gets poorer with age.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the most common cause of the incurable condition.
Over time, the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes can damage the nerves.
Physical injuries, viral infections and alcohol abuse may also trigger the disorder.