Wednesday, April 28, 2010

update: depression, B12, plus an owl and a rattler on our walk

Got a call this afternoon from the doctor's office; my B12 levels are very low. This may explain why I've been feeling a bit depressed and stupid. I got my first shot of B12 today, and will get one every two weeks for the next two months, then will test again. More on this in a moment.

Emma and I went for a walk afterward. As we went through the wash, passing by a tree, an owl that must not have known we were there flew within, I would swear, five feet of me at about head-height Okay, maybe eight or ten feet. But something astonishingly close. I've never had such a good look at a flying owl's butt before, and doubt I ever will again.

And we saw a diamondback in the road further on. We passed well behind him, and we each pretended we did not notice the other. Well, the tongue did flicker to let me know I shouldn't be stupid.

Back to the B12: While it's hard to be sure what the problem is, my quasi-vegan diet is probably a factor, because I think vitamin tablets are a scam and haven't been taking any supplements. Maybe I'll rethink that. But more likely, I'll be more ovo-lacto than I have been. We sometimes care for the neighbor's chickens, and while you could argue that our species has exploited chickens, our neighbor's chickens are not exploited. In my humble, there's nothing immoral about free range chickens. The same logic applies to dairy critters. I may even eat a bit more fish or meat when it's offered at other people's homes.

For more info:

Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12:
Strict vegetarians and vegans are at greater risk than lacto-ovo vegetarians and nonvegetarians of developing vitamin B12 deficiency because natural food sources of vitamin B12 are limited to animal foods [5]. Fortified breakfast cereals are one of the few sources of vitamin B12 from plants and can be used as a dietary source of vitamin B12 for strict vegetarians and vegans.
Vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin B6 are involved in homocysteine metabolism. In the presence of insufficient vitamin B12, homocysteine levels can rise due to inadequate function of methionine synthase [6]. Results from several randomized controlled trials indicate that combinations of vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements with or without vitamin B6 decrease homocysteine levels in people with vascular disease or diabetes and in young adult women [59-67]. In another study, older men and women who took a multivitamin/multimineral supplement for 8 weeks experienced a significant decrease in homocysteine levels [68].
Folic acid - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "A 10,000-patient study at Tufts University in 2007 concluded that excess folic acid worsens the effects of B12 deficiency and in fact may affect the absorption of B12.[124]"

Folic Acid, B12 May Increase Cancer Risk

The Way Up Newsletter - Vitamin B12 / Folic Acid / Homocysteine


  1. It's depression-related stuff that has me treading very, very carefully with the whole diet thing. I'm starting to pull back from the vegan end of the spectrum, largely because of just those kinds of problems (another one is DHA, also related to depression). Add into that the discovery that soy and I are far from being best friends, and I was facing nothing but misery unless I reassessed a bit. The ethical and environmental issues are important, but whatever we do will be imperfect anyway. You do what you can AND you take care of yourself.

  2. Gregory, dittoing that. I'm thinking something like flexitarianism may be the right way to go--far more vegetarian than the average American, but not obsessively so.

    Hmm. Still thinking this through, though.

  3. It's a tough thing. Personally, I'm leaning towards the idea that veganism is one of those things that might work really shiny for some folk, but not for others. I know people who seem to thrive on it, but my body just seems to struggle with certain things -- and not being able to have too much soy in the mix really complicates the matter. I've been getting to the point where I think maybe, with lots of work and thought, I might make it work -- but would I be happy? Or would I be obsessing about my diet so much that I'd end up being miserable all the time? And let me tell you, I've had enough years of being miserable. And I fully admit to a bit of full blown irrationality with the depression thing -- I've been so close to the void in the past that the thought of falling back down there is a source of acute terror. That definitely colors my thinking heavily on this.

  4. There definitely are people who shouldn't be vegans. The B-vitamin side of things is really tough. If the ethics concern you, going for free range eggs and milk products from good dairies seems right to me. Killing animals is tougher to justify for me, but if their lives are relatively good and their deaths are relatively quick, and you don't eat a lot of fish or chicken or meat, I think that's fine, too. It's the people who feel they have to eat meat several times a day who keep the factory meat industry going.

    And, dear God, stay away from the void! It can be biochemical.