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Vegan Diet Has No Ubiquitous Deficiencies: German Govt Study

A recent study conducted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) contradicts the fear of a general lack of nutrients in connection with veganism. Compared to those on a mixed-food diet, people who follow a purely plant based diet do not have an ubiquitous deficiency when it comes to important vitamins and minerals.

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Germany. The BfR has done several studies on veganism in order to examine the association between a vegan diet and nutrient supply, as well as to understand the motivation behind adoption of plant based diet. It has found that although ethical considerations clearly take priority, the perceived health benefit is also a deciding factor for around a quarter of vegans. However, there is a difference of opinion when it comes to the health aspects of a veganism. Therefore, the BfR decided to conduct a study to understand the effects of a vegan diet on overall health and nutrition.

The study was undertaken with 36 vegans and 36 people eating a mixed-food diet. The results show that those on a vegan diet did not show a general deficiency of zinc, selenium and calcium, the three minerals that vegans might lack. Although, the vegan test subjects had lower values for the three minerals than the mixed-food group. The study also showed that mixed-food volunteers had about the same amount of iron in their blood as vegans. Vegans ingest significantly more iron in their diet; however, it can be harder to dissolve out of plant-based foods than animal-based ones. This is why not as much finds its way into the metabolism.

The study results were particularly noteworthy with regard to the trace element iodine. The majority of the participants had a deficiency. However, the deficiency was much more pronounced among vegans. Conversely, vegans were generally adequately supplied with vitamin B12 despite a very low intake of the vitamin through food. The study said that food supplements that the test subjects reported taking could probably be the reason for this.

Vegans scored points with lower cholesterol levels (LDL and total cholesterol). Moreover, they ingested significantly more vitamin C, E and K as well as folate and fibre with their diet. The mixed-food group had the edge when it came to vitamins B2, B3 and D and also zinc. In both diets, about one in ten people had a deficiency.

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