It’s something we read or hear about all the time: people, in general, do not eat healthy. The average diet contains too much saturated fat and simple carbohydrates, elements that can lead to heart disease, obesity and other serious conditions. While not all people who follow a vegetarian diet do so for health reasons, such a diet is beneficial to the health.
There are three main types of vegetarians. Lacto vegetarians do not consume any meat, but instead live on fruits, vegetables and dairy. The lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is similar to the lacto vegetarian, with the exception that individuals who follow this diet consume eggs. As the name implies, fruitarians follow a diet restricted to fruits, but they may also eat nuts and seeds. Considered the most strict vegetarian diet, vegans do not eat meat, eggs, or dairy.
The only negative aspect of the vegetarian lifestyle is the high probability of vitamin deficiency. Depending on the type of vegetarian diet followed, an individual may not obtain the proper nutrients their body needs to function properly. One vitamin that is absent in most vegetarian diets is B-12. Vitamin B-12, which exists in meat, dairy, eggs, and poultry and is essential in the development of red blood cells and a healthy central nervous system. The common symptoms of B-12 deficiency include dementia, fatigue, hallucinations, balance problems, and vision disturbances.
People who have followed a vegetarian diet most of their life are more at risk of B-12 deficiency. Since B-12 can be reabsorbed, people who become a vegetarian later in life will typically do not display any symptoms of deficiency for as many as five years. It is a good idea to prevent deficiency from occurring because it is relatively difficult to reverse the effects of vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency can also result in increased levels of homocysteine in the body. Homocysteine is an antioxidant that when in high levels can have a toxic effect on the body. This is an important issue because as many as 20% of the people diagnosed with heart disease have elevated levels of homocysteine in their blood.
The recommended dosage of vitamin B-12 is 10 micrograms. If you follow a vegetarian lifestyle, it is recommended that you have your blood checked to check for deficiency. If your doctor detects that you have a B-12 deficiency, they will provide additional information about the amount of B-12 you should take.