Vegan Diets Lack Crucial Brain Nutrients

30 August 2019, 10:43

A Go Vegan protest
A Go Vegan protest. Picture: PA

Vegan and plant-based diets risk lowering the intake of dietary choline - a nutrient in dairy foods and meat that helps transfer signals between nerve cells.

Vegans are being warned that their diets could prevent them from getting enough choline, which humans mostly take in from beef, eggs, dairy, fish and chicken.

The nutrient is crucial for brain health and is especially important during fetal development. It also influences liver function.

Smaller amounts of choline can be found in nuts, beans, mushrooms and quinoa and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and sprouts, but the liver alone does not generate enough to meet the requirements of the human body.

Nutritionists recommend that those on a plant-based diet should consider taking supplements.

A vegan burger
A vegan burger. Picture: PA

Nutritionist Emma Derbyshire said in a British Medical Journal article that the importance of choline should not be "overlooked" by healthcare professionals and consumers alike, especially during pregnancy as it is vital for infant development.

She said "accelerated food trends" that have seen people move away from diets rich in animal products could further exacerbate the issue.

Bahee Van de Bor, a spokeswoman for the British Dietetic Association, said: "You absolutely can meet the requirements with a vegan or plant-based diet.

"But you have to have a plan. Foods can be vegan but not provide the necessary nutrients."