A leading nutritionist has alerted an “unintended consequence” of vegan diets is that they could make future generations less intelligent.
Writing in the journal BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health, Dr Emma Derbyshire said that while plant-based diets have many benefits, they are low in choline – a dietary nutrient that is key to brain development.
The nutrient, which can be found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products, is particularly important for pregnant women because it contributes to the healthy growth of a baby’s brain.
“We are at risk of dumbing down the brain power of the next generation,” said Derbyshire. “The train is moving so fast, and more people are avoiding meat and eggs. But it could leave many women of childbearing age lacking in this key nutrient.”
While choline is produced naturally by the liver, the quantities are not enough to meet the requirements of the human body, so it must be taken from either dietary or alternative sources.
However, despite Derbyshire’s concerns, other nutritionists and dietary experts are less worried about choline crisis.
Professor Tom Sanders of King’s College London rejected Derbyshire’s claims about choline, which, as well as being present in meat, is also found in nuts, beans, mushroom and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli.