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Prescription for plant-based diet overlooks vitamin B12 deficiency

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    1st Oct, 2019

While an EAT-Lancet study had found that the world must shift to plant-based diets to meet the SDGs, this vitamin is only found in animal meat and to a lesser extent in milk products. Thus, not seems to be a viable option.

Context

While an EAT-Lancet study had found that the world must shift to plant-based diets to meet the SDGs, this vitamin is only found in animal meat and to a lesser extent in milk products. Thus, not seems to be a viable option.

About

  • A water-soluble vitamin, B12 is the most critical element in the metabolism of every cell in the human body. Deficiency can cause anemia, weakness of limbs and dementia.
  • Pregnant women who lack this vitamin can give birth to brain-damaged babies, which can lead to autism.

Significance

Analysis

  • India doesn’t have nation-wide data on B12 deficiency. But there is wide acceptance among the medical fraternity that a large number of people as many as those suffering from vitamin D deficiency have this problem.
  • About 47 per cent people in northern India are vitamin B12 deficient. Thus, being an endemic problem
  • This vitamin is only found in animal meat and to a lesser extent in milk products.
  • For India, this debate has greater relevance as about 30 per cent of the population is vegetarian, according to an assessment of the National Sample Survey Office in 2014. An Indian eats roughly 4 kg of meat per year, as compared to the global average of 43 kg, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.
  • But there is another layer to the curious case of B12 deficiency in India. Even the non-vegetarian population is facing this deficiency. Most non-vegetarian Indians largely consume chicken, which has very little amount of vitamin B12 as compared to mutton or sea food
  • The government should also think about fortification as a possible panacea. The easiest solution is to inject the vitamin; a one course injection can suffice for a year.

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