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Claims made that a vegan diet can be bad for brain health because it is lacking in the nutrient choline have been criticized.
Pro-meat advocate Dr. Emma Derbyshire, a nutritional consultant who sits on the Meat Advisory Panel, made the claims in a piece published in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health journal.
She warned that vegans may be missing out on choline, as the best dietary sources are beef, eggs, dairy products, pork, chicken and salmon. It can also be found in nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables.
“Physiologically, choline is critical for a number of functions across the life cycle, with choline deficiency being linked to liver disease, offspring cognitive function and potential neurological disorders,” she wrote.
“The mounting evidence of choline’s importance makes it essential that it does not continue to be overlooked in the UK. This is now more important than ever given that accelerated food trends towards plant-based diets/ veganism could have further ramifications on choline intake/status.
“Government bodies and organizations should look to extended datasets to include this essential nutrient.”
According to Professor emeritus of Nutrition and Dietetics at King’s College London, Professor Tom Sanders, it is possible to get enough choline plant-based foods.
“Choline can be made in the body and it is also abundant in many plant foods including soybeans,” he said.
“There is no justification for suggesting that plant based diet risk damaging brain development. My own research on vegans and those of others in Europe and USA find the growth and development of vegans and vegetarians is normal.
“The main hazard of a vegan diet with regard to neurological development is vitamin B12 deficiency which can readily be avoided by consuming food fortified with the vitamin derived from microbial sources.”
‘An obvious play’
Dr. Garth Davis, a plant-based advocate and weight-loss surgeon, blasted the claims as ‘an obvious play by the meat and egg industry who are threatened by recent changes in demand for their food’.
Discussing the idea that vegans suffer from low choline levels, he said: “Truly low choline levels would cause fatty liver BUT vegans have lower incidence of fatty liver. Choline deficiency could cause neurological problems BUT vegans have LESS dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“Choline deficiency would cause elevated homocysteine levels which would increase risk of heart disease but in vegans with adequate B12 homocysteine levels are normal and vegans have lower heart disease risk.
“This is such an obvious play by the meat and egg industry who are threatened by recent changes in demand for their food. Then media jumps all over it with ridiculous click bait titles. Meanwhile, us whole food plant-based eaters are over here living our best disease-free life with the best longevity.”