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Plant-based diets could come with health risks

Researchers explain that consumers could be lacking vital nutrients

Photo (c) AlexRaths - Getty Images
As consumers look to incorporate more eco-friendly habits into their daily routines, a new study evaluated the effectiveness of making the switch to a plant-based diet. 

According to researchers, though there are health and environmental benefits, many of these diet plans are depriving consumers of nutrients that are vital to brain functioning. 

“This is...concerning given that current trends appear to be towards meat reduction and plant-based diets,” said Dr. Emma Derbyshire. 

Getting the proper nutrients

Switching up regular diet plans to include more plant-based options has become popular among consumers, and reducing the intake of things like red meat and dairy can lead to better overall health. 

However, several studies have found that prioritizing the environment can also have its drawbacks. In this study the researchers found that plant-based diets are lacking in one crucial nutrient: choline. 

Brain development is most affected by choline levels, particularly for newborns and infants. That’s why experts recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume around an extra 100 mg of choline per day to ensure proper brain functioning. 

Though naturally produced in the body, our systems require that baseline level to be supplemented by foods that contain choline in order to receive the full benefits, such as eggs, meat, or whole milk. Eating fewer animal-based foods, while beneficial to the environment, can lead to a reduction in choline levels, which can ultimately affect consumers’ liver function and metabolism. 

Moving forward, the researchers suggest that consumers look for ways to incorporate foods or supplements of some kind to help offset lower levels of choline when following traditional plant-based diets. 

“More needs to be done to educate healthcare professionals and consumers about the importance of a choline-rich diet, and how to achieve this,” Dr. Derbyshire wrote. “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.” 

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