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Veganism: Vitamin B12 is well supplemented, iodine is a matter of concern

28/2020, 31.08.2020

A study carried out by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment shows differences between vegan and mixed diets

Those following a vegan diet have an increased risk of iodine deficiency. This is indicated by the results of a research project from the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). In the "Risks and benefits of a vegan diet" (RBVD) study project, a BfR research team investigated the nutrient supply in 36 people following a vegan diet and 36 people with a mixed diet. There was no significant difference with regard to vitamin B12, which was present in approximately the same amount in the blood of both groups. Since vitamin B12 is taken up almost exclusively by animal food, the supply of participants following a vegan diet could be due to the intake via dietary supplements. "This study makes it possible to compare a vegan diet with a mixed diet with regard to a variety vitamins and trace elements," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "Both diets investigated revealed a lack of iodine. However, the shortage is clearly more distinct in the vegan variant."

Deutsches Ärzteblatt has now published the study results:

In the RBVD study, the BfR research team analysed blood and urine samples and evaluated lifestyle questionnaires and dietary protocols. Of those participating (18 women and men respectively per group aged 30-60 years), almost all those following a vegan diet and one third following a mixed diet took different food supplements.

The study results were particularly noteworthy with regard to the trace element iodine. Iodine excretion measured in urine samples provides information on how well the body is supplied with the trace element. The majority of the participants had a deficiency. The deficiency was significantly more pronounced among vegans - in one third of them, the level was below 20 micrograms per litre (μg/L), the limit defined by the World Health Organization (WHO); anything below this represents a serious shortage. A vegan diet has, however, also shown health benefits, such as a higher fibre intake and lower cholesterol levels. For both diets, about 10% of participants had an iron deficiency.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states ("Laender") on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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