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Should vegans take vitamin supplements?

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Durian Days Revisited
by Frederic Patenaude

"Vegans advised to take vitamin supplements." Such was one headline you could read in some newspapers on March 22, 2000. The article went on describing the case of a Frenchman, who was diagnosed with severe optic neuropathy in both eyes. His blood was examined and it was found that his levels of B1, B12, A, C, D, E, zinc, and selenium were all measurably below normal. The lost of his eyesight was attributed to his strict vegan diet, which he followed for 13 years. "Vitamin supplementation is essential in persons who adhere to a strict vegetarian diet, especially because vitamin deficiencies may cause severe, irreversible optic (nerve damage)," the article concludes.

Every time something like that happens, dieticians around the world rejoice. "See, this is the proof that the vegan diet is dangerous" they shout out loud. But what is strange to me is that you never hear when someone on a typical meat-eating diet suffers a similar end. If the man in the article would have been eating a typical diet, the scientists would not have thought of blaming the diet. They would have blamed old age, chemicals, or even a "virus." They certainly would not have checked his blood to look for any vitamin deficiency. If they would have done so, I believe we would be surprised to hear of how many meat eaters have low levels of vitamins.

Every time a meat eater dies of a heart attack, you don’t hear about it in the news. You don’t read a report showing how the arteries of the person were clogged with fat, and that what caused this condition in the first place is a diet of burgers and fries. You don’t hear about this because if newspaper would report every single one of these cases, it would fill all the space in the newspaper. It surely would because there are over 700,000 Americans dying of a heart attack every year.

On the other hand, if a vegan (or raw-foodist) dies of a heart attack, or any other disease, you are likely to hear about it. You will see a little report in the newspaper, similar to the one I discussed. You might even hear something in these lines: "See! This just shows that a vegan diet doesn’t protect against heart attacks!"

This same type of craziness goes on in everyday life. For example, you are a vegan or a raw-foodist, and you get a cold. Now a cold can be caused by many things — lack of sleep, cold weather, change of seasons, poor diet, acid-forming foods, or anything that lowers your immune system. When someone "normal" gets a cold, we blame the weather, a "virus" or something similar. But if a vegan or raw-foodists gets a cold, suddenly the diet is to blame. "See! This is why you are sick…this diet is making you sick!" you will hear everywhere.

It is very easy to make people believe what you want them to believe. One article in a newspaper is usually enough. Most people who have read the article I mentioned are now convinced that a vegan diet is dangerous, without any further investigation. Without even examining the poor logic of the argumentation. One vegan suffers from blindness, therefore, a vegan diet causes blindness. This is in the same lines as "90% of all serial killers smoke cigarettes, therefore, cigarettes cause people to become serial killers." Unfortunately, this is the type of logic that prevails today in the so-called "scientific studies."

But what about the millions of vegans around the world, some of them who have never consumed animal products in their entire lives, and who live healthy and happy lives, without suffering from vitamin deficiency leading to blindness? How can these people, most of which who don’t take supplements, can still be alive if they follow a diet that is so "dangerous"?

Of course we are not making the claim that a raw vegan diet will protect you from all diseases. There are so many factors that are at play. You can have a healthy diet and die of cancer, if you have been exposed to toxic chemicals in your environment all your life. You can destroy your bacterial flora by taking in all sorts of antibiotics and medicines, and lower your capacity to assimilate food for the rest of your life. But does it mean that eating a healthy diet is not important? No, because by eating a raw vegan diet you don’t expose yourself to all sorts of chemicals in food, even though you might be taking some toxins from other sources — at least you are not getting twice the dose. You still win in any case!

In conclusion, people have to realize that they are the ones responsible for their own health. They should educate themselves as thoroughly as possible, and make their own decision based on their intuition and "logical" reasoning mind. And when they have found a way of eating they should "live and let live," or "die in silence."

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