Veggie charity reassures mums-to-be over B12 scaremongering

| Post published on May 3, 2009
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Pregnant woman

Leading health charity the Vegetarian and Vegan Foundation (Now Viva!) says that veggie and mum’s-to-be should ignore the relentless stream of nonsense written about an animal-free diet. This comes in response to warnings this week that a veggie or vegan during pregnancy may increase the risk of birth defects.

The study this story is based on looked at a group of Irish women in the 1980’s who had low blood levels of vitamin B12 – it is unclear whether there were any vegans at all in the group. In addition to this, among the group, vitamin supplementation and food fortification were rare. There may also have been some genetic predisposition in this population too who had a relatively high incidence of neural tube defects.

Experts agree that a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet provides all the nutrients needed for a healthy pregnancy and a robust baby. They are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women, the elderly and competitive athletes.

The health benefits of a vegetarian or vegan diet extend well beyond pregnancy… The American Dietetic Association and The American Academy of Pediatrics agree that diets of vegan children meet or exceed recommendations for most nutrients and vegan children have higher intakes of fibre and lower intakes of total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol than omnivorous children. B12 can be obtained from many everyday food items that are fortified such as veggie burger and sausage mixes, yeast extracts, vegetables stocks, margarines, breakfast cereals and soya milks.

VVF senior health campaigner Dr Justine Butler, says: “So not only can vegan diets be adequate for children at all ages but such diets may reduce the risk of some chronic diseases of adulthood that have their origins in childhood. The truth is, a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet is packed with disease-busting, body and brain nurturing nutrients, ideal for a healthy pregnancy.

The VVF’s Vegetarian and Vegan Mother & Baby guide contains a wealth of practical information covering all aspects of vegetarian or vegan pregnancies and how to bring your baby up on a meat-free diet. Available from VVF, 8 York Court, Wilder St, Bristol BS2 8QH. Send cheque payable to VVF for £1.90 + £1 p&p with your order, name and address. Order by phone on 0117 970 5190 or online at

The publication of this guide was made possible thanks to a grant from the Cyril Corden Trust. Cyril Corden – a sculptor, monumental stonemason, businessman, Quaker, vegetarian most of his life and vegan for his last two decades – funded and set up the Trust in 1987, which continues to support projects which have lasting advances in vegetarian, vegan and humanitarian causes.

The Vegetarian and Vegan Mother and Baby Guide includes a daily nutrient guide, essential nutrients for mums-to-be and the practicalities of breast-feeding. It lists the best veggie/vegan foods for weaning, survival tips and discusses formula feeds. Co-authored by Rose Elliot, Britain’s best loved vegetarian cookery writer and Juliet Gellatley, founder of the VVF, it is a must-read for Mums-to-be. For more information about this media release, please call press officer Helen Rossiter or Justine Butler on 0117 970 5190 or email

About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
I joined Viva! as a health campaigner in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. My scientific training helped me research and write numerous reports, guides and fact sheets for Viva! including Meat the Truth, Fish-Free for Life, One in Nine (breast cancer and diet) and the substantial report on the detrimental health effects of consuming dairy; White Lies. This accompanied Viva!’s report The Dark Side of Dairy which spelt out the inherent cruelty of dairy farming. We were the first UK group to take on the dairy industry in this way, and many of our supporters go vegan after reading these reports.

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