In an effort to eat healthier this year some people are switching to a vegan diet for January. But be careful if you plan to participate in “Veganuary.” A new study from the University of Nottingham in England found people switching to a vegan diet were able to lower their cholesterol, but at the same time they failed to take in enough of a few critical micronutrients.
Scientists from the School of Biosciences at the University of Nottingham looked at meat-eaters and vegetarians between the ages of 18 and 60 who previously participated in Veganuary and compared them to vegans as well as meat-eaters and vegetarians who kept with their normal diets. Those researchers found positive and negative effects among the new converts to veganism and published their findings in the journal Nutrients.
The study participants were asked to fill out food intake questionnaires during the months of November, December and January and that data was used to assess nutrient intake.
The biggest drawbacks for the meat-eaters who went vegan were found in the reduction of vitamin B12 and iodine intake among those who did not take dietary supplements. Iodine is found in dairy products, eggs and seafood, three things excluded from a vegan diet because they come from animals. Among other things, iodine is especially important for pregnant women since it is critical for the development of the baby’s brain.
Vitamin B-12 is found in meat, eggs and seafood. Deficiency in this critical vitamin can lead to anemia and also affect the proper functioning of the nervous system.
On the plus side, meat-eaters who switched to a vegan diet saw a big decrease in their cholesterol and their saturated fat intake.
"Veganuary can be done perfectly healthily, if followed sensibly, and our study shows there can be pros and cons to switching from a meat and dairy diet," Dr. Simon Welham, senior author of the study, School of Biosciences, said. "As with any major dietary change, it is important that people plan properly to ensure they are getting the nutrients they need.
"While we showed some clear health benefits from switching from meat and dairy to vegan, the study also highlighted the vitamins and minerals people taking part in Veganuary need to pay particular attention to, namely iodine and B12. Our advice for people taking part this year would be to check food labels carefully and try to ensure alternative products have these nutrients added."
Dr. Welham went on to say, "Omnivores pledging to vegan campaigns may wish to seek nutritional advice before switching diets to ensure their nutrient intake is adequate. As this is unlikely for many, in the absence of dietary consultation, there is a need for clear guidance that is visible to all those considering such a dietary change."