A new study comparing a vegan diet with a mixed diet found no change in vitamin B12 levels. However, one-third of vegan participants were iodine deficient.
There are many benefits to a vegan diet, including a lower risk of heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
However, a growing concern is the lack of dietary nutrients that are mainly present in animal foods. Two important nutrients are vitamin B12 and iodine.
Since vitamin B12 is not found naturally in plant-based foods, those who eat only these foods are at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. A 2017 study in the journal
Since vitamin B12 is vital in the formation of red blood cells, insufficient levels can
Iodine is another essential nutrient for the body. Iodine is essential for the production of thyroid hormones, and the recommended intake for an adult is
Iodine is inside
Despite some natural sources, getting enough iodine can still be challenging for vegans. A 2011 study in Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism it was found that vegans were at high risk for iodine deficiency.
Low iodine levels can force the thyroid to absorb iodine from the blood, which can lead to hypothyroidism. Iodine deficiency during pregnancy or in young children can also impair cognitive development and increase the risk of intellectual disability.
Despite nutritional concerns, eating plant-based foods remains increasingly popular. For example, a 2017 study in Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that in 2012, 1.9% of people in the US followed a vegan or vegetarian diet for health reasons. This was an increase of 18.8% from 2002.
In response to growing interest in veganism, researchers at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment sought to find any updates regarding the average vegan health food.
The study appears in the journal Deutsches rzteblattwith
The researchers selected a total of 72 participants aged 30-57 from Berlin, of whom 36 were vegans, and 36 were eating a comprehensive diet consisting of plant and animal foods.
The team used questionnaires to collect demographic information from these individuals, including age, level of education, and lifestyle factors.
Using the German Nutrition Database, the researchers used a 3-day dietary protocol to measure nutrient intake in both groups. They excluded the use of dietary supplements from the calculations.
The researchers also took 60 milliliters of blood samples and 24-hour urine samples to monitor vitamin and mineral levels. They identified some of these, such as vitamin B12, through biomarkers. For example, high concentrations of holotranscobalamin
During the 3-day census, those on the vegan diet showed lower cholesterol concentrations than those everywhere.
The vegan group also consumed more fiber, vitamin E, vitamin K and folate. However, these participants did not eat as many foods rich in vitamin B12, vitamin D and iodine as omnivores.
In the blood, vegan participants had lower levels of vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin E, vitamin A, selenoprotein P, and zinc than omnivores. However, they had high levels of folate and vitamin K1.
In urine samples, iodine and calcium levels were lower in those following a vegan diet.
A surprising finding was the lack of vitamin B12 in vegans. Researchers attribute this to the growing recognition of vitamin B12 deficiency in plant-based diets.
“Most vegans are aware that a vegan diet is associated with the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, and vitamin B12 is by far their most common supplement,” the authors write.
Another interesting finding was that both groups had low iodine levels, although this was more evident in vegans. Only 8% of vegans achieved adequate iodine levels compared to 25% of omnivores.
Understanding the study recruitment process is important when interpreting the data. The authors note that the participants most likely were a convenience sample. This means that they chose people who were easy to reach, as they enrolled people who responded to their announcement.
A comfortable sample may have created bias in results, as people who took the time to respond may already have been health conscious. However, subjectivity in recruitment remains debatable.
“Since the same recruitment strategy was used for vegans and omnivores, and a BMI ≥ 30 kg / m2 was chosen as the exclusion criterion, it can be assumed that the level of health awareness was similar in both groups,” the authors note.
The study also used a small sample of 72 participants, which is unlikely to be representative of the general population in Germany.
“Consequently, the results of our study provide first insights into the current status of vitamins and minerals in vegans versus omnivores in the German population,” the authors write.
This updated nutritional information can help guide vegans toward prioritizing iodine in addition to vitamin B12 supplementation.
By doing so you can avoid the health risks associated with following a plant-based diet.