Yesterday’s headlines about diet and birth defects caused some completely unsubstantiated claims about vegan diets. The news stories were based on research published in the journal Pediatrics, showing that there is a greater risk of birth defects in babies born to women with low blood levels of vitamin B12.
Some journalists saw this as an opportunity to discredit vegan diets—despite the fact that the words “vegan” and “vegetarian” never appeared in the Pediatrics article! The subjects in this study were women living in Ireland at a time when fortified foods were not widely available in that country. There was no indication that any of these women were vegetarian.
Those whose eat plant-based diets do need to supplement their intake with vitamin B12, either from supplements or fortified foods. All smart vegans know this and all responsible vegan health professionals advise it. And it’s not a unique situation among eating patterns. All people in northern climates, for example, need to supplement their diets with vitamin D, and pregnant women are advised to take prenatal vitamins regardless of their diet.
Well-planned vegan diets that are appropriately supplemented can support healthful pregnancies. And the article in Pediatrics never said otherwise!