Background: Vegan diets have become highly popular as more people choose to avoid animal products for religious, ethical, or health reasons, but do they provide adequate nutrients?
The study: This systematic review analyzed 48 studies that included 12,096 vegan participants. The researchers assessed the nutritional intake and adequacy of a vegan diet among Europeans based on the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended macronutrient and micronutrient intakes. The primary outcomes were adequate intakes of energy, macronutrients, and micronutrients. The secondary outcomes were risk of deficiencies and effect on health and BMI.
The results: In most studies, vegans had a lower energy intake than nonvegans, although they still met the recommended daily energy intake. Vegans had higher intakes of carbohydrates, fiber, and polyunsaturated fats than nonvegans, but their monounsaturated fat, saturated fat, and protein intakes were lower. Vegans consumed ~13–15% of calories from protein, slightly below the WHO recommendation of 15%.
Compared to nonvegans, vegans had higher intakes of thiamin, magnesium, folate, vitamin E, vitamin B6 and lower intakes of riboflavin, vitamin D, niacin, zinc, calcium, iodine, selenium, and vitamin B12. Vegans had a higher risk of B12, zinc, and iodine deficiencies.
Notably, despite higher reported intakes of iron among vegans, iron status was not different between vegans and nonvegans in most studies. Vegans had lower BMIs and rates of overweight/obesity.
Note: Supplementation with vitamin B12 could be a wise choice for vegans. A high folate intake can mask the type of anemia that occurs with vitamin B12 deficiency.
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