Veganism has become increasingly popular in recent years – a far cry from the meat and three veg dinners most Baby Boomers grew up with – with many people opting to follow the plant-based diet and parents are now even choosing to raise their children with no access to animal products. But a nutritionist from the UK has warned fad vegan diets could be putting brain health at risk.
Writing in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, Dr. Emma Derbyshire said a plant-based diet lacks choline – an essential nutrient for brain health. It is mainly found in beef, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken, with much lower levels found in nuts, beans, and vegetables like broccoli and brussels sprouts.
According to Derbyshire, moving away from animal-rich diets could negatively impact your brain health. In fact, choline is critical to brain health, particularly during fetal development. It also influences liver function.
In 1998, recognising the importance of choline, the US Institute of Medicine recommended minimum daily intakes. These range from 425 mg/day for women to 550 mg/day for men, and 450 mg/day and 550 mg/day for pregnant and breastfeeding women, respectively
But Derbyshire said national dietary surveys in North America, Australia, and Europe show that choline intake, on average, falls short of these recommendations, which she said was concerning. “This is….concerning given that current trends appear to be towards meat reduction and plant-based diets.”
The nutritionist said more needs to be done to educate healthcare professionals and consumers about the importance of a choline-rich diet. “If choline is not obtained in the levels needed from dietary sources per se then supplementation strategies will be required, especially in relation to key stages of the life cycle, such as pregnancy, when choline intakes are critical to infant development.”
According to the New York Post, she added: “We are at risk of dumbing down the brain power of the next generation.”
Meanwhile, it comes after celebrity chef Pete Evans blasted parents who force their kids to be vegan, after a Sydney couple were sentenced in court last week for neglecting their toddler, who was left severely malnourished due to a strict vegan diet. Speaking out about the incident on social media, the Australian chef said children should not be subjected to the restrictive diet.
“This is so so sad. I will repeat it again and again. Humans are omnivores (please look it up and understand that definition) and we are designed to eat meat in our diet,” Evans wrote on Facebook. “Please use common sense and start by understanding what being human means.”
He continued: “Children should not be on a vegan plant only diet. There is a mainstream push to turn people off all meat or worse encouraging people to eat fake meat products (please read the ingredients) and the repercussions are going to be horrendous.”
The Sydney parents, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had their three children taken away from them after the youngest was left severely malnourished. According to a news.com.au report, the baby’s diet consisted of oats, potatoes, rice, tofu, bread, peanut butter and rice milk, with only a mouthful of fruit or a couple of sultanas as a snack. On Thursday a judge sentenced the parents to an 18-month intensive correction order rather than imprisonment after pleading guilty. Both will undertake 300 hours’ community service.
The court reportedly heard the toddler, now aged three, became so malnourished that she weighed only 4.89 kilograms when she was hospitalised in March last year after suffering a seizure. She was 19 months old at the time yet reportedly looked as if she was only three months old.
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