Federal Institute: Further increase risk awareness for vegan nutrition
In a research project by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) it was found that vegans are educated above average and have in-depth nutritional knowledge. However, more clarification is needed that the purely plant-based diet is not suitable for all groups of people.
Meatless diet for health reasons
Soy instead of beef on the grill, then vegan baked cake with banana instead of egg: vegan nutrition is the trend. The health aspect is often in the foreground: Typical diseases of civilization such as obesity, diabetes or high blood lipids are rare for vegans. However, in addition to proven positive health effects, risks are also described. According to experts, vegan nutrition is not suitable for certain groups of people.
Undersupply of nutrients possible
"An undersupply of nutrients such as vitamin B12 or iron is possible, especially in pregnant women and children who completely do without animal foods," said the President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, in a message.
"In order for information about possible risks to reach the target group, it is essential to know the attitudes."
The BfR is now publishing the results of a research project that is dedicated to the individual and social factors that motivate and maintain a vegan diet.
Among other things, it became clear that effective risk communication should build on the existing beliefs of vegans. The goal is concrete tips that can be combined with a vegan diet.
Positive health effects
A growing proportion of the population is opting for a vegan diet. The health and safety advantages and disadvantages of this step have not yet been scientifically clarified, the BfR writes.
Some studies show that a vegan diet can have positive health effects, such as low cholesterol and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
At the same time, there may be health risks associated with a purely vegan diet. Because: A purely plant-based diet complicates an adequate supply with some nutrients.
In addition to vitamin B12, some minerals, certain amino acids and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are also described as potentially critical nutrients. This particularly affects sensitive groups such as pregnant women and children.
Dietary recommendations for vegans
In 2016, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) developed dietary recommendations for vegans based on the current scientific literature.
Among other things, she came to the conclusion: "For pregnant women, nursing mothers, infants, children and adolescents, the DGE does not recommend a vegan diet."
However, DGE press spokeswoman Antje Gahl admitted years ago that a vegan diet for children is quite possible with a varied menu.
It is important that parents know what to look for in their children's vegan diet.
Educated above average
The BfR has devoted itself to this topic in order to develop suitable risk communication strategies. With the help of focus group interviews, a total of 42 vegans were asked about their attitudes as part of a research project.
Because of the sometimes very pronounced deviations from the average population, generalizations can be made.
According to the study, vegans are educated above average and have in-depth nutritional knowledge. For example, 40 of the 42 respondents are aware that a vegan diet can lead to a deficiency in vitamin B12.
Most indicated that they regularly supplemented the vitamin to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency.
But there is also a need for information. For example, knowledge about iron sources in food is fragmentary. The majority of those surveyed, however, are aware of the risk associated with their particular diet.
The Internet is the most important source of information when searching for information about vegan nutrition.
Vegan diet for ethical reasons
Uniform patterns of attitudes were identified in the survey. So the decision for a vegan diet is usually ethical. In most cases, it also implies that animal products are not used in other areas, such as clothing.
For the vast majority of those questioned, it is inconceivable to return to the omnivorous diet that allows animal products. Pregnancy is usually not seen as the reason for this.
In addition, it became clear during the survey: Those who present the vegan diet as dangerous or abnormal will find little attention from the target group.
According to the BfR, effective risk communication should rather be based on existing beliefs. This includes specific instructions for vegans that they can combine with their diet. (ad)