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Nutritional deficiencies associated with vegan diet.

Scientists caution that vegans may be deficient in essential nutrients, such as adequate complete protein, vitamin B12, which is found only in animal foods and supplements, vitamin A, calcium, zinc, and the essential omega-3 fatty acid, docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. (1-8)

Vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to elevated homocysteine levels among some vegans and vegetarians. (1,4) Elevated homocysteine is implicated as a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease and several diseases of the central nervous system. (7) Breast-fed infants of vegan mothers are at risk of severe vitamin B12 deficiency, which may result in growth retardation and brain atrophy. (2,3,5)

Docosahexaeonic acid is especially problematic for vegans, who do not consume any animal or animal-derived products, including dairy and eggs. Studies have shown, for instance, that breast-fed infants of vegan mothers obtain inadequate amounts of vitamin B12 and DHA, nutrients needed for optimal nervous system growth. (2,3,8)


(1.) Herrmann W, Schorr H, Purschwitz K, Rassoul F, Richter V. Total homocysteine, vitamin B(12), and total antioxidant status in vegetarians. Clin Chem. 2001 Jun;47(6):1094-101.

(2.) Lucke T, Korenke GC, Poggenburg I, Bentele KH, Das AM, Hartmann H. Maternal vitamin B12 deficiency: cause for neurological symptoms in infancy. Z Geburtshilfe Neonatol. 2007 Aug;211(4):157-61.

(3.) Kuhne T, Bubl R, Baumgartner R. Maternal vegan diet causing a serious infantile neurological disorder due to vitamin B12 deficiency. Eur J Pediatr. 1991 Jan;150(3):205-8.

(4.) Key TJ, Appleby PN, Rosell MS. Health effects of vegetarian and vegan diets. Proc Nutr Soc. 2006 Feb;65(1):35-41.

(5.) Wagnon J, Cagnard B, Bridoux-Henno L, Tourtelier Y, Grall JY, Dabadie A. Breastfeeding and vegan diet. J Gynecol Obstet Biol Reprod (Paris). 2005 Oct;34(6):610-2.

(6.) Marcus J, Sarnak MJ, Menon V. Homocysteine lowering and cardiovascular disease risk: lost in translation. Can J Cardiol. 2007 Jul;23(9):707-10.

(7.) Herrmann W, Herrmann M, Obeid R. Hyperhomocysteinaemia: a critical review of old and new aspects. Curr Drug Metab. 2007 Jan;8(1):17-31.

(8.) Sanders TA, Reddy S. The influence of a vegetarian diet on the fatty acid composition of human milk and the essential fatty acid status of the infant. J Pediatr. 1992 Apr;120(4 Pt 2):S71-7.
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Title Annotation:IN THE NEWS
Author:Kiefer, Dale
Publication:Life Extension
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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