Hi everyone,

I heard from my friend that one of her vegetarian friends had a blood test recently, and the doctor told her that she was low in something that is apparently only found in red meat. She didn't know what it was called, but an enzyme, nutrient, vitamin, something like that was low for her because she had been a vegetarian for so many years. But apparently it's something that is necessary for proper blood cell functioning.

Do any of you know what nutrient this is, and whether it's true that it's only found in red meat? Appreciate any insight or guesses!


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Possibly haemoglobin, which requires iron to form healthy red blood cells.

Lots of people including doctors think red meat is the best source of that- unfortunately doctors and nurses receive minimal nutritional education (I'm a nursing student!). If it is an iron issue, then there are vegetarian sources with far better levels of it than red meat.

Could it be CoQ10? Just did some research on that

Looks like she saw a crackpot doctor.

CoQ10 is also a possibilty. If so, that's easily remedied with a supplement. Many non-vegetarians take this supplement anyway for it's health benefits.

She was most likely iron or B12 deficient.    The theory is that red meat is the only way to get B12, unless you take a daily supplement which is what I do, and highly recommend. 

B12 is for muscles, brain and the nervous system.  Red meat also has zinc, phosphorous, iron, pantothenate, vitamin B6, thiamin, selenium, niacin, riboflavin and magnesium. 

However, all these can be achieved with a plant based diet. 

The B12 is the most controversial...

Hope she feels better!

  1. Missing Nutrients: Your body needs vitamins to use CoQ10. If you’re missing vitamins B2, B3, B6, B12, vitamin C, folic acid, or pantothenic acid, you may be in trouble.

In reference to the possible CoQ10 deficiency, I found this information, hope it helps :)

Vitamin B12 is so important to keep yourself going. Learn to put nutritional yeast on everything!!!  It helped raise my b12 levels and my iron levels...


She should see a dietician also.

First, keep in mind that physicians are not required to take a single nutrition class in med school.  I believe there are a few states that require it, but that requirement is 1 course.  So physicians essentially know little to nothing about nutrition.  That is not saying that you should ignore your doctor completely, but when it comes to being vegetarian/vegan very few know the nutritional requirements/benefits. (I work in the medical field with several GP physicians)

That being said, when you go vegetarian/vegan you still need a healthy diet that is varied with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.  Many people go into it for strictly ethical reasons without doing the research to insure they are maintaining a healthy diet.  If someone is eating primarily processed foods, white flour, and refined sugars you will be deficient in nutrients, which would also be true even if you do eat animal products.  If you research you will find that half of the top 10 foods that contain the most iron are plant based, not animal products.  But, you have to make sure you are eating plenty of whole foods in order to get the right amount of the nutrients you need with a vegetarian diet.  Many Vegans take a B12 supplement since there are no plant based foods that contain it, but there are also several Vegan foods (soy/almond milks and nutritional yeast, for example) that are fortified with B12 as well.  Like others said, if you are concerned look into seeing a dietician or nutritionist, and/or do your own research to make sure you are getting the right nutrients you need.

Until I have more time to make my own food (with nutritional yeast and more supplements) I've been taking a vegan vitamin tablet daily. It's wonderful and I feel amazing.

I'd like to think he meant vitamin B12, but I personally doubt they were even checking for this in a routine blood test, so it's probably iron.

If your iron count is low you feel very lethargic and tired and you can suffer hair loss etc.

Doctors like you to eat meat ( especially offal like liver and kidneys) because of the iron content and because they are often not that interested in learning about other ways to nourish the body.

Even vegetarians can have really unhealthy diets however, so it's down to the individual to do the research and have the interest to ensure their body is being given the right nutrition to function properly.

Probably B12. You can buy a supplement. Nothing else in red meat that you can't get in a plant based diet.

I agree with everyone, it was probably B12. It is very important, and a lot of people think it is only found in red meat. You can take a supplement, and it actually makes you feel amazing! Boosts energy like crazy. The only other thing I could think of is iron, but that is found in all leafy greens at a higher percentage than meat by weight. On a daily basis, I take the following: B12 nugget, vegan supplement by Deva, calcium/magnesium/zinc, and vitamin C (just because it makes me feel great). When I used to eat meat, I wasn't even allowed to donate blood because my iron was so low. Now it is way above the minimum levels, which I was really excited about. Good luck!


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