What’s the story of Dr. Kress and pernicious anemia?

My wife, a dietitian, has had a special interest in Dr. Kress for many years. I asked her to respond to your inquiry. Here is what she wrote,

Dr. Kress’s experience is a classic example of the premature restriction of diet. He was a Baptist minister who became an Adventist in 1887. He was acquainted with Ellen White and her writings and became engaged in the health message, choosing to interpret her messages to mean that he should follow a vegan diet. In 1894, both he and his wife graduated from the University of Michigan with medical degrees. They served in Battle Creek, Michigan, in England, and then in Australia, always teaching the total vegetarian diet.

While in Australia in the early 1900s, Dr. Kress developed pernicious anemia. Despite anointing, he deteriorated steadily, reaching the point where he made plans for his funeral service and was expected to die at any moment. Then a letter arrived from Ellen White telling him that the Lord had revealed his case to her and had told her that Dr. Kress should get eggs from healthy fowl, drop them raw into the best unfermented wine, and drink that mixture.

The prescription was almost more than he could cope with, for he thought he had been following Ellen White’s counsels in his choice not to use animal products. But his belief in Mrs. White as the Lord’s messenger prevailed—he ate eggs and recovered. He later came back to the States, where he kept office hours at the Florida Sanitarium into his nineties, living to age 94.

Dr. Kress’s story is quite a dramatic one—the timing of the letter

1. Edited for publication in this book.that had to come by ship from the United States, for one thing. Those caring for Dr. Kress said that he could hardly swallow, but that the raw egg in grape juice was something they were able to get down him. His case was the talk of the area, and many visitors came to see the “man who should be in his grave, but wasn’t.”

Pernicious anemia is caused by a lack of vitamin B12 in the bloodstream. It typically occurs in people over fifty whose stomach acid production is very low. Stomach acid is needed for proper formation of the “intrinsic factor,” a carrier molecule that hitches onto vitamin B12 from food. The combination of the vitamin and the carrier factor moves down into the lower small intestine, where the B12 can be absorbed. (Bacteria in our gut make B12, but we cannot absorb it, for it has not passed through the stomach and hitched up with the carrier.)

In the grape juice and egg combination that the Lord told Ellen G. White to pass along to Dr. Kress, the egg would be the source of B12, for that vitamin comes only from animal sources. (Certain forms of B12 develop on fermented soy products, but those forms are not functional in the human body.)

See also the question and answer that precedes this one.