In an analysis of vegan diets including observational data it started collecting in 2017, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) found no widespread deficiencies of calcium, zinc, selenium or iron. among those following a plant-based diet in a sample of around 60 Berliners.
While “The vegan test subjects had lower values than the mixed food group for the minerals zinc, selenium and calcium”The deficit was not considered substantial, nor for iron.
(BfR noted that although the sample was small, it “Provide initial guidance on which nutrients require action. “)
Iodine and B12 deficiencies
“Compared to a mixed diet, people who follow a purely vegetable diet do not have a pervasive deficiency in important vitamins and minerals”the BfR wrote, With the exception of B12 and iodine, the latter being a “problem child” for both vegans and even meat eaters.
A third of the vegans surveyed had iodine levels below 20 micrograms per liter (μg / L) of iodine, an amount that the World Health Organization (WHO) defined as “severe iodine deficiency.”
“Since iodized table salt is present in particular in industrially produced meats and dairy products that are not on the vegan menu, the BfR recommends obtaining a medical evaluation to find out whether ingesting iodine as a dietary supplement could be a possible solution.
Likewise for folic acid, which is “rarely contained in a vegetable diet”, The survey found that almost all vegans and a third of meat eaters incorporated folic acid-based dietary supplements into their diet. Vegans often had higher folate levels than meat eaters due to supplementation.
“As long as those on a vegan diet keep this supplement in mind, the supply of vitamin B12 is guaranteed,”said Iris Trefflich, co-author of the report.
The vegans also had lower LDL cholesterol levels as well as higher levels of vitamins C, K and E and fiber.
Meat eaters generally had higher levels of riboflavin (B2), nicotinamide, niacin and nicotinamide riboside (B3), vitamin D, and zinc.
The report’s other co-author, Dr Cornelia Weikert, said that one diet is not necessarily better than another, at least from a nutritional standpoint.
“Following a vegan diet can have beneficial effects on health. But ultimately, as with a mixed diet, it depends on the choice of foods consumed and a balanced intake of macronutrients as well as vitamins and trace elements.Dr Weikert said.
Vegan motivations and perceptions
The report also analyzed the motivations for food choices and how veganism is viewed in the public domain, including media and social media platforms.
Interviewees cited presentations and documentaries on animal husbandry as the most common factor leading them to eliminate meat from their diet.
“These reports are shocking. The ethical decision is not based on direct personal experience, but rather on animal suffering conveyed by the media ”,the report said.
Vegans have generally formed positive associations with their eating habits – for themselves and more broadly. Vegans generally saw the benefits of veganism for general well-being, performance, appearance, and disease reduction, as well as improved animal welfare and the environment.
The challenges included social pressure, the limited availability of certain foods, and the aforementioned concerns about nutrient intakes, which meant that many more vegans consumed dietary supplements than people on the mixed diet.
Vegans and meat eaters were similar in exercise and alcohol levels, although meat eaters tended to smoke more tobacco.
Vegans were much more likely to seek nutritional information.
BfR reviewed 1,000 entries on social media, blogs and forums and found veganism to be portrayed in an overwhelmingly positive way. 92% of referrals were positive, with Twitter being the most critical (42% positive; 30% negative).
That said, “Veganism is not unquestionably praised – even 40% of neutral and positive entries show a recognizable awareness of risk. Possible nutritional deficiencies and how to prevent them are topics that are discussed.
Some vegans were concerned about the health risks during pregnancy and to infants, but most believed that a vegan diet was not associated with any significant health risks.
“They consider regular medical check-ups and taking dietary supplements to be effective preventive measures, but they only put them into practice to a small extent with children. “