Vegan diet means choline deficiency

It has long been known that vegan diets are lacking in important nutrients. Now also another nutrient, so far overlooked, is not sufficient in a plant-based diet: choline, essential for brain health, particularly during fetal development, and also necessary for proper liver function.

Moving away from diets involving animal products could have “unintended consequences” due to inadequate choline intake, according to a scientific article in the prestigious online medical journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health. “Could we be overlooking a potential choline crisis in the United Kingdom?”, is the title of the study that presents a worrying scenario, given that this nutrient is found mainly in animal foods and given the growing popularity of vegetable and vegan diets in the country.

Moving away from #diets involving #AnimalProducts could have unintended consequences due to inadequate #choline intake. Click To Tweet

The author of the study, Dr. Emma Derbyshire of Nutritional Insight, a consultancy specialising in nutrition and biomedical science in London, is clear: “Given the important physiological roles of choline and authorisation of certain health claims, it is questionable why choline has been overlooked for so long in the UK. Choline is presently excluded from UK food composition databases, major dietary surveys, and dietary guidelines.”

Dr Derbyshire said the government failed to recommend or monitor levels of this nutrient, as the US Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have already done, recognizing that choline plays an important role in the human body and establishing reference dietary values: “More needs to be done to educate health professionals and consumers about the importance of a diet rich in choline, taking into account integration strategies, particularly during pregnancy, when the intake of choline is essential for a healthy development of the child’s brain”, explains the doctor, stating: “It is essential that it does not continue to be overlooked in the United Kingdom, and this is now more important than ever given that accelerated food trends towards plant-based diets/veganism could have further ramifications on choline intake/status.”

Primary sources of #choline are all #AnimalFoods and in particular #beef, but also #eggs, #dairy products, #fish and #chicken. Click To Tweet

The article highlights that primary sources of choline are all animal foods and in particular beef, but also eggs, dairy products, fish and chicken. Small and not enough amounts are found in vegetables such as walnuts, beans and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli. Choline is also produced by the liver, but quantity is not enough to satisfy the human body recommendations, so it becomes an “essential” nutrient, which must necessarily be obtained from the foods containing it.

Market research shows that meat is being eaten less than ever, with 21% of UK households reducing their intake over the past two years and with around 7% of the British population claiming to be vegan. As this type of diet has grown in popularity, more and more mothers are also choosing it for their child and this is alarming, since plant-based diets are known to be poor in key nutrients for children, such as vitamin B12, iron, calcium and zinc.

Plant-based diets are known to be poor in key nutrients for #children, such as #vitaminB12, iron, calcium and zinc. Click To Tweet

As researchers wrote in the Pediatrics scientific journal or experts at University College London said, the lack of B12 in children leads to developmental delay in newborns, malnutrition and “irreversible damage” to their nervous system, as well as iron deficiency, which prevents children from growing, causing anemia, which can be life-threatening in severe cases. Even protein deficiency causes stunted growth and excess fiber, which makes children immediately feel satiated by preventing them from eating enough. That’s why several experts agree in defining vegan diet “less than ideal” for children.

“With vegan trend we are at risk of breaking down the power of the brain, lowering the level of the IQ of future generations“, nutritionists warn with serious concern. “More and more people are ditching meat and eggs. But it could leave many women of childbearing age deficient in this key nutrient”.

This is why the American Academy of Pediatrics has, since 2018, urged pediatricians not to simply limit to recommending a “good diet”, but to making sure that pregnant women and young children have access to high nutritional value food that provides adequate amounts of nutrients for “brain building”, and choline is listed as one of these.

With #vegan trend we are at risk of breaking down the power of the #brain, lowering the level of the #IQ of future generations. Click To Tweet

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.