Vitamin and Mineral Status in a Vegan Diet.

Deutsches Arzteblatt international. 2020;117(35-36):575-582
Full text from:

Other resources

Plain language summary

In recent years, the interest in a vegan diet, avoiding all foods of animal origin, has been growing steadily in Germany. The aim of this study was to provide first insights into the current micronutrient status in a vegan diet compared to an omnivorous diet. This study is a cross-sectional study which recruited 72 participants. The participants included 36 vegans and 36 omnivores aged between 30 and 57 years. Results indicate that: - the vitamin B12 status of vegans in this study was largely normal. - the majority of participants showed signs of undersupply of iodine which was more severe in vegans compared to omnivores. - ferritin levels and blood count changes in both groups were indicative of iron deficiency in every 10th participant in the study. - total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels were significantly lower in vegans compared to omnivores. Authors conclude that further larger longitudinal studies are required in order to gather up-to-date information about the nutritional and health status of a vegan population, which in turn would help in evaluating potential long-term health risks and protective effects.


BACKGROUND In Germany, public interest in a vegan diet is steadily growing. There are, however, no current data on the macro- and micronutrient status of vegans. METHODS In a cross-sectional study entitled "The Risks and Benefits of a Vegan Diet" (RBVD), we investigated the dietary intake, basic laboratory parameters, vitamin status, and trace-element status of 36 vegans and 36 persons on an omnivorous diet. Each group consisted of 18 men and 18 women aged 30-60. RESULTS Nearly all the vegans and one-third of the persons on a mixed diet had consumed supplements in the previous 4 weeks. Vegans and nonvegans had similar energy intake but differed in the intake of both macronutrients (e.g., dietary fiber) and micronutrients (e.g., vitamins B12, B2, D, E, and K, as well as folate, iodine, and iron). There were no intergroup differences in the biomarkers of vitamin B12, vitamin D, or iron status. The ferritin values and blood counts indicated iron deficiency in four vegans and three non-vegans. Measurements in 24-hour urine samples revealed lower calcium excretion and markedly lower iodine excretion in vegans compared to non-vegans; in one-third of the vegans, iodine excretion was lower than the WHO threshold value (<20 μg/L) for severe iodine deficiency. CONCLUSION Vitamin B12 status was similarly good in vegans and non-vegans, even though the vegans consumed very little dietary B12. This may be due to the high rate of supplementation. The findings imply a need to also assure adequate iodine intake in the population, especially among persons on a vegan diet.

Lifestyle medicine

Fundamental Clinical Imbalances : Immune and inflammation
Patient Centred Factors : Triggers/Vegan diet
Environmental Inputs : Diet ; Nutrients
Personal Lifestyle Factors : Nutrition
Functional Laboratory Testing : Blood

Methodological quality

Jadad score : Not applicable
Allocation concealment : Not applicable
Publication Type : Journal Article