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A health expert has blasted an article claiming that plant-based diets could lead to blindness.
A Daily Star piece titled Eating this popular food could be making you blind has prompted Dr. Justine Butler from Viva! Health to brand it as ‘this week’s silly headline’, calling it out for ‘sensationalism at its very worst’.
The story refers to a psychologist who claims vegan diets could lead to ischemic retinopathy (blindness) due to vitamin B12 deficiency.
The article claims: “Vitamin B12 is found in eggs, meat, fish and dairy products – so without taking supplements, many vegans could be facing debilitating symptoms.”
As well as the psychologist, Nutritionist Sophie Ortega told the publication that a vegan client of hers dealt with B12 deficiency – and that it was endangering her health.
Ortega said: “It was as if she preferred to lose her sight…rather than betray her commitment to animals.”
The article also describes veganism as a trigger for orthorexia – an unhealthy preoccupation with healthy eating.
In a Viva! piece titled ‘Blind Hypocrisy’, Dr. Butler goes on to explain that there is no evidence showing that going vegan leads to blindness.
She adds: “However, there is very good evidence that a poor diet (burgers and chips) can lead to serious health problems, including all our major killers – heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
“On the other hand, the huge EPIC study found a clear link with the risk of cataracts being highest in high meat-eaters decreasing progressively in low meat-eaters, pescaterians, vegetarians and vegans.
“Vegans had the lowest possible risk of cataracts, 40 per cent lower than meat-eaters.”
Dr. Butler also clarified that research has shown vegan people with eating disorders made the dietary change after the onset of the disease.
“Evidence shows that semi-vegetarianism (as opposed to true vegetarianism or veganism) is more likely to be related to disordered eating and that true vegetarians and vegans are the healthiest,” she says.
Dr. Butler warned that B12 is a problem for omnivores and vegans alike.
“In the U.S., everyone over 50 is advised to take a supplement or eat B12-fortified foods as B12 from animal foods is bound to animal protein, making absorption difficult.
“Oh, and the B12 in meat and dairy isn’t there ‘naturally’ – farmed animals are fed B12 supplements as their food doesn’t contain it.”
This is why she recommends people to cut out the ‘middleman’, and take their own supplements.