Common Vegan Dietary Deficiencies, and What You Can Do To Avoid Them

Vegan Diet Dangers - Vegan Noodle Bowl

18th August 2015

By Dr. Edward Group

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

In terms of health, a vegetarian diet can be quite high in certain nutrients and low in saturated fat and cholesterol. A study 2009 published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests a vegan diet could actually be the best when it comes to lowering heart disease and blood pressure. [1] But as compared to other vegetarians, vegans (or strict vegetarians) choose to avoid all animal products — for example, eggs and dairy — which means that they can also have deficiencies in certain nutrients that must be made up with supplements or through other dietary means.

Common Vegan Deficiencies

The dangers of the vegan diet are few and far between and, I believe, are greatly outweighed by the widely-acknowledged benefits. Let’s go over 5 major nutritional problems you could face from a vegan diet, and what you can do to avoid them.


1. Vitamin A Deficiency

While you’ll only find pre-formed vitamin A in animal products, there are certain compounds — you’ve likely already heard of one, beta-carotene — the body can convert into the vitamin. Because of its role in good vision (night blindness is one of the first signs of a deficiency), immune system health, and cell growth, making sure you get enough is key. [2] [3] For vegans, there are quite a few vegetable options for getting the Vitamin A you need, but keep in mind, a poorly balanced vegan diet could lead to not getting enough of the vitamin.

2. Lack of Vitamin B12

If you’re not getting enough B12, you could develop anemia or damage to your brain and nervous system. For vegans, getting enough becomes a little tricky since their only reliable sources are fortified foods and supplements. But even with just enough to prevent the major issues mentioned above, studies suggest too little could also lead to pregnancy complications. [4][5]

3. Low Calcium Intake

Many vegans typically only get about 400-600 mg of calcium each day compared to the U.S. recommendations of 1,000 mg each day. While recommendations to increase your milk consumption for your calcium is very outdated, you still need to incorporate as many foods as you can to get enough calcium.

IVegan Diet Dangers - Got Greensf you’re eating plenty of green leafy vegetables, like kale, spinach, and mustard greens, you’ll be getting enough calcium. Supplementing with calcium can be helpful, but watch out – you want to go for a highly-absorbable option, like calcium orotate, instead of using calcium carbonate or citrate.

4. Vitamin D3 Insufficiency

Research suggests Vitamin D, which is necessary for calcium absorption, is also just as important in preventing osteoporosis. [6] Most vegans won’t get any of this vitamin from natural food sources, so supplementing with vitamin D3 – make sure it’s vitamin D3 and not vitamin D2 – could be crucial for bone health.

5. Iodine Depletion

Iodine is needed for a healthy thyroid, and getting too little can cause problems with the body’s metabolic functions. Because your body can’t produce iodine, getting trace amounts in food and supplements are your only options. Keep in mind that one study suggests vegans could have iodine deficiencies due to lower iodine levels in plants. [7]

The Take Home

Supplementation with specific nutrients, like vitamin D3 and iodine, can only improve the quality of your diet, no matter which dietary philosophy you follow.

True, vegans have the potential to be some of the healthiest folks out there, but that’s only with the right vitamins and minerals.

How do you get the most nutritional value out of your vegan diet? Tell us about it in the comments below or join the conversation on Facebook.

– Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM

Article Sources:

  1. Craig, W. J. Health effects of vegan diets. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 89 (5).
  2. Dowling, J. E. & Wald, G. Vitamin A Deficiency and Night Blindness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 44 (7).
  3. Clifford, L. J. Reversible night blindness – A reminder of the increasing importance of vitamin A deficiency in the developed world. Journal of Optometry. 6 (3).
  4. Molloy, A. M. et al. Effects of folate and vitamin B12 deficiencies during pregnancy on fetal, infant, and child development. Food and Nutrition Bulletin. 29 (2 Supplement).
  5. VanderJagt, D. J. et al. Assessment of the Vitamin B12 Status of Pregnant Women in Nigeria Using Plasma Holotranscobalamin. ISRN Obstetrics and Gynecology.
  6. Barr, S. I et al. Spinal bone mineral density in premenopausal vegetarian and nonvegetarian women: cross-sectional and prospective comparisons. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 98 (7).
  7. Krajcovicová-Kudlácková M et al. Iodine deficiency in vegetarians and vegans. Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism. 47 (5).

Previous articles by Dr. Group:

About the author:

dr-edward-group-iiiDr. Edward F. Group III (DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM) founded Global Healing Center in 1998 and is currently the Chief Executive Officer. Heading up the research and development team, Dr. Group assumes a hands-on approach in producing new and advanced degenerative disease products and information.

Dr. Group has studied natural healing methods for over 20 years and now teaches individuals and practitioners all around the world. He no longer sees patients but solely concentrates on spreading the word of health and wellness to the global community. Under his leadership, Global Healing Center, Inc. has earned recognition as one of the largest alternative, natural and organic health resources on the internet.

For more information, please visit Global Healing Center.

 


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  • I feel that it’s great to point out the pitfalls of being on a an unhealthy vegan diet, although I just wanted to share that I’ve eaten a healthy vegan diet for 21 years. In that time my health has consistently been in excellent condition and as a vegan chef and recipe developer, I’ve seen hundreds of people switch to a totally plant-based diet only to see radical health improvements. I’ve also had a super healthy vegan pregnancy and raised a healthy child (who is now in college).

    Do a search for ‘Mimi Kirk’ online – she’s a long term vegan in her mid seventies and her health is AMAZING – a true testimony to the virtues of a healthy vegan diet.

    Of course, it helps to eat a HEALTHY vegan diet that is also free from from wheat, refined sugar and junk foods. Organic, homegrown produce along with a well balanced diet is essential to make sure that you have access to a plethora of nutrients. Personally, I include lots of fresh veggies, some fruits, seeds (like hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, quinoa, chia, flaxseed), nuts, avocados, coconut. legumes, pulses and gluten-free grains (like rice and millet). Healthy choices mean that the body is able to absorb and assimilate the nutrients available in plant-based foods. Personally, the only nutrient that I add to my diet is vitamin B12 (and the reason that B12 is not reliable in a plant-based diet may be due to our over sterile modern world).

    • Jess.

      Trinity, if you feed your children a strictly vegan diet you should be arrested for child abuse…

  • cinnamon powered

    The benefits of following a vegan diet not only GREATLY outway the downsides, it is the most environmental sustainable diet, and they prevent a lot of diseases like Cancer, hearts disease, diabetis etc. (not to mention animals also feel pain I read somewhere)

    maybe do an article on how meat and dairy contributes to most ilnesses rather than keep preaching about your cannabis oil. (not saying it doesnt work, but prevention beats curing)

    You need to Wake up “wake up world”

    references:

    https://www.drmcdougall.com/

    http://www.dresselstyn.com/site/

    http://www.pcrm.org/shop/byNealBarnard/dr-barnards-program-for-reversing-diabetes

  • Amyah Labrèche-Docq

    I agree with Trinity and Yas… same pattern on my side. There is some point I doubt in this article like vitamine A… well… THE major source of beta-carotene is in colored veggies like carrots and red/orange peppers for exemple, certainly not in a steak. Then D3, well… I don’t think that meat gives you D3 and the not too natural D they put in milk… well… when you consider all the chemicals and ugly stuff in milk, I would prefer to take good organic drops from a good company instead and go out in the sun. Then iodine… most vegans will eat seaweeds like arame, kelp, kombu, etc… As for the calcium… there is more assimilable calcium in the dark green per portion than in a steak.

    Don’t forget… yes the tests show there is vitamins in some meat but they are destroyed with the cooking and those vitamins, if there is some that survived the bbq, will be transformed, oxydized by the heat and will be only partially assimilable. Reason why, eventhough they say that we need calcium, studies found that the big meat eaters and milk drinkers have osteoporosis and arthritis.

    Yes B-12 can be a problem and we have to be careful and me too, it is the only supplement I take. Of course, vegans’ diet has to be well balanced and we have to eat a good diversity of food (like you list Trinity).

    And yes, Mimi Kirk is amazing :)) can you imagine… she is 77 now!!!!! Wow!!!