September 11, 2019
The momentum behind a move to plant-based and vegan diets for the good of the planet is commendable, but there is a risk that people who do not eat meat will suffer from the low intake of an essential nutrient, UK-based Dr. Emma Derbyshire of Nutritional Insight warns in an article on Science Daily.
Choline, a required nutrient that is found predominantly in animal foods—including beef, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken; and, in much lower levels, in nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables— is critical to brain health.
In recognition of the dietary importance of choline, in 1998, the U.S. Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences recommended minimum daily intakes. These range from 425 mg/day for women to 550 mg/day for men, and 450 mg/day and 550 mg/day for pregnant and breastfeeding women, respectively, because of the critical role the nutrient has in fetal development.
In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority published similar daily requirements.
“This is….concerning given that current trends appear to be towards meat reduction and plant-based diets,” Dr Derbyshire told the news outlet.
And she is at a loss to understand why choline does not feature in UK dietary guidance or national population monitoring data.
“Given the important physiological roles of choline and authorization of certain health claims, it is questionable why choline has been overlooked for so long in the UK,” she writes. “Choline is presently excluded from UK food composition databases, major dietary surveys, and dietary guidelines,” she adds.
It may be time for the UK government’s independent Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition to reverse this, she suggests, particularly given the mounting evidence on the importance of choline to human health and growing concerns about the sustainability of the planet’s food production.
“More needs to be done to educate healthcare professionals and consumers about the importance of a choline-rich diet, and how to achieve this,” she writes.
“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,” she concludes.
Research contact: @ScienceDaily