Vegan diets are often praised for their health benefits. However, there are many nutrients that are only found in animal products. Vegans should carefully observe the levels of intake for the nutrients listed below in order to maintain good health.  Vegans with autoimmune, gut or chronic inflammatory issues need to stay far away from a vegan diet even if they supplement with these 16 nutrients.

Introduction

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Vegan diets are acclaimed for their health benefits, owing to their high content of fiber, vitamins C and E, and folic acid. Compared to other diets, vegan diets tend to be low in fat, calories, and cholesterol. Vegans also have a reduced risk for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes (R).

However, there are many other nutrients obtained from animal sources that vegans lack unless they take supplements. They are all important for health, and some deficiencies can have adverse effects (R).

Whatever diet you think is healthy, vegan diets are missing many healthful components that can become a serious problem in the long run for vegans.

This post is bringing down many of these components that are missing.

These nutrients are so important that I have a post on most of them and will soon have a post on all of them.

The Cancer vs Autoimmune Tradeoff

People with cancer and autoimmune disease have very different immune systems.  Generally, cancer is caused by a lowered immune system and autoimmune disease is caused by an overactive immune system.

People who are predisposed to cancer are more likely to do well with a more plant-rich Mediterranean diet (not vegan), while people who are predisposed to autoimmunity are better served with a higher protein, meat, and seafood based diet (see lectin avoidance diet).

The Worst Part About Vegetarian/Vegan Diets

For me, the worst part of a vegan diet is the immunostimulatory agents in grains, beans, nuts, seeds and plant-based foods.

The effects that I get is somewhat dose dependent and on a vegan diet, the immune stimulation is way too much for me.  My body melts down, no matter how organic the foods are or anything else.  Raw plant-based foods are often worse because they contain more of these immune stimulatory agents.

For most people, an omnivorous diet is fine, but a vegan diet is too much for most of the population.

I’ve identified some common substances found in plant-based foods that can be problematic when people have autoimmune issues.  They are:

  1. Lectins
  2. Amines
  3. Tannins
  4. Trypsin Inhibitors
  5. FODMAPS
  6. Salicylates
  7. Oxalates
  8. Sulfites, Benzoates and MSG
  9. Non-protein amino acids
  10. Glycosides
  11. Alkaloids (includes solanine, chaconine)
  12. Triterpenes
  13. Lignins
  14. Saponins
  15. Phytic Acid (Also Called Phytate)
  16. Gluten
  17. Isoflavones

Vegetarians also often get too much copper, which can cause some health issues.

Vegan Diets Do Not Contain Adequate Amounts of

1) DHA, EPA

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Aside from being sources of energy, essential fatty acids such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) serve as structural components of cell membranes and precursors to eicosanoids, which play a role in regulating blood pressure and inflammation (R).

EPA & DHA also have protective roles in a wide range of diseases (e.g., cancer, asthma, depression, heart disease, ADHD, and autoimmune disorders) (R).

The major dietary sources of EPA and DHA are seafood, red meat, and dairy products. Although it is possible for plant food acids to be converted to EPA and DHA, the conversion levels are below 10% and not sufficient (R).

Compared to meat eaters, vegans have 53% lower levels of EPA and nearly 59% lower levels of DHA (R).

2) Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that is vital for cell division, carbon metabolism, and maintenance of the nervous system. Because natural sources are only found in meat, vegans are frequently vitamin B12 deficient (R,R2,R3).

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause weakness, numbness, and an increase in an amino acid called homocysteine. High homocysteine levels can increase the risk of heart disease (R).

In the elderly, vitamin B12 deficiency is associated with brain disorders. High homocysteine levels can also increase the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (R).

3) Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 is essential for bone health (R).

Although vitamin D is found in plants (as vitamin D2), it is not as potent as Cholecalciferol (D3), the type of vitamin D found in fish and dairy products (R).

Vegans’ dietary intake of vitamin D is below the recommended range. Inadequate intake can decrease bone mineral density and cause bone abnormalities (R).

Vitamin D is critical to many processes in the body, especially the immune system.

4) Vitamin A/Retinol

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Vitamin A promotes healthy immune function and helps with reproduction, skin health, and eyesight. These vitamins are mostly found in seafood, meat, liver, eggs, and dairy products (R).

Plants contain beta-carotene, which can be converted to active Vitamin A (retinol), but the conversion rate is very low (R).

There are many Genes that affect the conversion of beta-carotene to retinol, which you can see in SelfDecode.

5) Zinc

Zinc deficiency in adults is uncommon, but can be an issue for children. Inadequate zinc intake in children can cause anorexia, poor growth, and problems with the immune system. In adults, zinc deficiency can cause liver disease (R).

Vegetarians have a lower intake of zinc (R).

Many plant foods that contain zinc also contain phytate, which inhibits zinc absorption. Vegetarian diets tend to reduce zinc absorption by about 35% compared to an omnivorous diet (R).

I was severely deficient in Zinc at one point when consuming a plant-based diet.

If you have gut problems (IBD, IBS, etc..), your zinc intake will be significantly worse.

6) Choline

Choline is an essential nutrient that is needed for brain function, cell transmission, and metabolism. Inadequate choline intake can cause high cholesterol, as well as liver, heart, and brain disorders (R).

Vegans may be at risk for choline deficiency since most food sources are either meat, dairy, or seafood products (R).

SelfDecode has many SNPs that affect the levels of choline.  PEMT and the CHAT genes are just two examples.

SelfDecode has a whole SNP pack that analyzes your genetics for choline status (must subscribe).

7) Calcium

In vegans, the dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D is below the recommended range. This may cause a decrease in bone mineral density and increase the risk of bone abnormalities (R).

Calcium has many other important uses as well.

Vegans don’t get nearly enough calcium

While there are plant sources of calcium, they also contain oxalate and phytate, both of which inhibit calcium absorption (R).

The Dietitian’s Guide to Vegetarian Diets (2004) lists 45 studies that have surveyed vegetarians’ calcium intakes in Appendix G. The daily calcium intakes in these studies are about:

  • Vegans: 500 – 600 mg
  • Lacto-Ovo vegetarians: 800 – 900 mg
  • Non-vegetarians: 1,000 mg

American adults need anywhere from 1000-1300mg of calcium and vegans are falling short of this by 2.5X.

Table 4. U.S. DRI for Calcium
Age US DRI
(mg)
0 – 6 mos 200
6 – 12 mos 260
1 – 3 yrs 700
4 – 8 yrs 1000
9 – 18 yrs 1300
19 – 50 yrs 1000
51 – 70 yrs (male) 1000
51 – 70 yrs (female) 1200
over 70 1200
14 – 18 pregnant/lactating 1300
19 – 50 pregnant/lactating 1000

8) Iron

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Iron deficiency, especially in young children, can cause behavioral problems and brain impairments (R).

Heme iron is only found in meat and is more easily absorbed than the iron found in plant foods (R).

Vegans are more prone to anemia than meat eaters and have lower iron stores in their body (R).

Another problem that vegans encounter is that they consume a higher amount of phytate and polyphenols, both of which inhibit iron absorption (R).

People with gut problems such as IBD and IBS can’t absorb iron that well as it is.  And women are often anemic when they are consuming normal diets.

I have a lot of clients who have very low ferritin levels.  A vegan diet can be dangerous in this instance.

9) Iodine

Iodine is an important micronutrient that is needed for all stages of life. Insufficient iodine intake can cause mental retardation, thyroid dysfunction, and other health problems (R).

Iodine is more commonly found in animal food products than those of plant origin. One study showed that 80% of vegans suffer from iodine deficiency compared to the 9% of those who ate both meat and plants (R).

Eating a lot of vegetables that are goitrogenic can make things worse.

I was deficient in iodine after being on a vegan diet for a while.

10) Selenium

Selenium plays a role in thyroid and reproductive function, and also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Low levels of selenium are associated with cognitive decline, poor immune system function, and an increased risk of death (R).

Women that partook in a vegan diet exhibited lower levels of selenium compared to women on a regular diet (R).

11) Cholesterol

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Vegetarians usually have lower cholesterol levels (R).

Although low cholesterol can be beneficial for heart disease (that’s controversial), cholesterol is needed to make sex hormones such as pregnenolone, DHEA, and testosterone (R).

Vegetarians have significantly lower testosterone levels than meat eaters (R).

If I don’t consume foods with cholesterol, my cognitive function and motivation reliably go down.

When I consumed a whole food, plant-based vegan diet, I thought I was getting early stage Alzheimer’s, I had zero motivation and almost no cognitive horsepower.

After taking pregnenolone, I was able to function on some level, but this didn’t solve the other deficiencies.

12) Carnitine

Carnitine is a molecule that is involved in fatty acid metabolism, which allows for cells to obtain energy from fat stored in the body (R).

Since carnitine is primarily found in meats and dairy products, vegans are at risk for carnitine deficiency (R).

Compared to nonvegetarians, vegetarians have lower muscle carnitine levels and a reduced capacity to transport carnitine into the muscle (R).

13) Carnosine

Carnosine is an antioxidant that is concentrated in the muscles and brain and is associated with longevity (R).

High levels of carnosine in muscles are linked to reduced muscle fatigue and improved athletic performance (R).

Carnosine is only found in meat and dairy products, but can be formed in the body from the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine. Vegetarians have less carnosine in their muscles than meat eaters (R, R2).

14) Glycine

Glycine is an amino acid with a long list of benefits that I enumerate in this post.

Vegans don’t ingest as much glycine from the diet as meat eaters (even though their blood levels are higher) (R).

15) Amino Acids

Compared to fish eaters, vegetarians, and meat eaters, vegans have the lowest concentrations of methionine, tryptophan, lysine, leucine, cystine, proline, tyrosine, phenylalanine, serine, alanine, threonine, isoleucine and valine, all of which are essential amino acids (RR).

It would take a book to describe why each of these amino acids are important, but I will just name the most common reasons why people supplement with these amino acids.

Essential amino acids, especially leucine, are vital for making proteins in muscle. These amino acids may also contribute to maintaining muscle mass (R).

  • Leucine, isoleucine and valine are BCAAs that stimulate metabolism and muscle growth.
  • Methionine is a precursor to SAM, which is important for methylation.
  • Tryptophan is critical for serotonin synthesis, and therefore melatonin synthesis.
  • Cysteine is important for creating glutathione and hydrogen sulfide.
  • Lysine is important for immune function and can reduce anxiety.
  • Tyrosine and phenylalanine are important for dopamine synthesis.
  • Proline is important for collagen production and joints.

I had to supplement with many amino acids on a vegan diet.

16) Creatine

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Creatine is a nutrient that enhances endurance, strength building, and brain function. Although it is not necessary to obtain creatine from dietary sources, there are studies that show that creatine supplements can provide health benefits (R).

In vegetarians, creatine supplementation resulted in improved memory, processing speed, and general intelligence (R, R2).

Vegetarians are also more responsive to creatine supplementation with regard to physical performance than nonvegetarians. Vegetarians who took creatine had a greater increase in lean muscle tissue and total work performance compared to nonvegetarians (R).

17) Taurine

Body tissues contain a sulfur compound called taurine. Although its functions are not entirely known, it may play a role in muscle function, antioxidant defense, and bile salt formation (R, R2, R3).

Taurine is only found in animal products such as seafood, poultry, and dairy products (R).

Taurine has many benefits.  One study claims that taurine is one of the most essential substances in the body. The authors wrote (R):

“Considering its broad distribution, its many cytoprotective attributes, and its functional significance in cell development, nutrition, and survival, taurine is undoubtedly one of the most essential substances in the body.”

Vegans have lower levels of taurine than meat eaters (R).

18) Vitamin B6/Pyridoxine

One study says that 58% of vegetarians are deficient in vitamin B6 (R).

Another study says ~29% of vegetarians are deficient in vitamin B6 and the study concludes that vegetarians should be considered as a vulnerable group for vitamin B6 deficiency (R).

19) Vitamin B2/Riboflavin

Vegetarians are lower intake of vitamin B2/riboflavin (R,).

A high prevalence of riboflavin deficiency was found in 24.2% of the vegetarians and a study concludes that vegetarians should be considered as the vulnerable group for vitamin B2 deficiency (R, R2).

20) Vitamin B3/Niacin

In one study, 34% of vegetarians were deficient in niacin (R).

Finnish patients who went on a vegan diet had lower than recommended intakes of niacin (R, R2).

The Vegan Argument – and Counterpoints

The key vegan argument centers around what is strictly enough to prevent a deficiency and in cases where there’s no other option, they supplement. The problem with that reasoning is twofold:

  1. Some people in the population need more of a certain nutrient.
  2. Many people in the population do better with taking more of certain nutrient, even if they are not strictly defined as “deficient” in it.  That’s why there’s a supplement industry that sells them in higher dosages and people take them for a variety of conditions.  I would recommend reading my posts on these nutrients to see what benefits taking extra has.

1) DHA, EPA: yep, eat some flax, chia not walnuts every day. Limit your vegetable oil. Not so hard. If you still test too low, take some algae supplements.

Counterpoint: ALA found in flax/chia/walnuts does not convert well into DHA (R) and you will never get the optimal levels of DHA.  And when it comes to DHA, we’re not getting enough.  All you need to do is read my post about DHA to understand why you need to get optimal levels of this.

“The majority of evidence from isotopic tracer studies show that the conversion of ALA to DHA is of the order of 1% in infants, and considerably lower in adults” (R).

There’s a reason why vegans have 59% less DHA (R).

2) Vitamin B12: Veganism 101, supplement B12.

Counterpoint: Not a problem if vegans supplement.

3) Vitamin D3: take some sun? If you feel fancy eat some UV treated mushrooms or just take a pill. This nutrient is a problem for everyone who doesn’t get much sun.

Counterpoint: people don’t get nearly enough sun, and I would also venture to say that dietary and vittamin d from the sun get circulated to different tissue differently.

4) Vitamin A/Retinol: plant version is harmless, animal version is toxic at too high dosage

Counterpoint: Toxic in excess that no one would consume in a diet.  Many people require real vitamin A because of poor conversion.

5) Zinc: eat some pumpkin seeds and legumes.

Counterpoint: Zinc is one of those nutrients that people do better with it in levels over the RDA. Pumpkin seeds and legumes didn’t cut it for me and I was severely deficient.

7) Calcium: kale? Other leaky greens? Buy a supplemented plant milk. Getting 700mg is important.

Counterpoint: The RDA is 1000mg or more and kale won’t give you that (in addition to the calcium being less bioavailable in kale).

8) Iron: eat nuts and legumes with a vitamin C source and you’ll be fine. It can increase the absorption up to 6 fold. Funny how they never say that. Funny how they also never say that heme iron is linked to cancer.

Counterpoint: It’s a fact that many women and people are anemic and aren’t getting enough iron.  I’ve has hundreds of clients who were anemic even after trying to consume a lot of meat.  The point is that you need to measure your iron status and if it’s low (as was the case with me even though I ate tons of vitamin C), eating nuts and legumes won’t cut it.  If you’re adequate then you don’t need to worry, because more iron isn’t better (ferritin should be over 70).

9) Iodine: buy iodized salt. Eat some seaweed. Unless you are deficient, the goitrogenic effect of vegetables shouldn’t a problem.

Counterpoint: Vegans can get around this if they’re smart, but the fat is that one study shows that 80% of vegans suffer from iodine deficiency compared to the 9% of those who ate both meat and plants (R).

6) Choline: present in plants in a non dangerous version. The animal version is linked with cancer risk.

Counterpoint: This is a nutrient that some people need more of – it depends on your genetics, as mentioned.

10) Selenium: seriously? Eat some brazil nuts.

Counterpoint: True, except that vegans need to pay attention and eat brazil nuts.

As mentioned, women who partook in a vegan diet exhibited lower levels of selenium compared to women on a regular diet (R).

11) Cholesterol: Holy shit. No. Just no. The only source is about how we use cholesterol to make sex hormones. Good thing you produce your own and you don’t need to eat any. Eating too much is bad for you, because yes it’ll increase your blood cholesterol and YES this will increase your risk for heart disease.

Counterpoint: Cholesterol production isn’t enough in some people. Many people report doing better on diets with higher cholesterol – and dietary cholesterol doesn’t increase risk of heart disease, according to a systematic review and meta-analyses (R).

12) Carnitine: you produce it

Counterpoint: This is a case where more can be better. Read carnitine post.

13) Carnosine: non essential antioxidant. We eat plenty of other types and probably more in total than your average omni.

Counterpoint: This is a case where more can be better.  See carnosine post.

14) Glycine: like all amino acids you can get as much as you want from plants

Counterpoint: This is a case where more can be better. See glycine post.

15) Amino Acids: seriously? That’s just another way of saying protein. Yes they are important but it’s also true that most people eat too much protein which is disastrous for your health. Vegans having less of those is not a bad thing at all.

Counterpoint: Many people do better with more.

16) Creatine: not essential.

Counterpoint: Many people do better with more.  It’s not essential if you’re not interested in intelligence. As I mentioned, IQ went up in vegans who supplemented.

17) Taurine: not essential.

Counterpoint: Many people do better with more.

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41 COMMENTS

  • Daniel

    J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Jul;109(7):1266-82.
    Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets.
    Craig WJ1, Mangels AR; American Dietetic Association.
    Author information
    Abstract
    It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods. This article reviews the current data related to key nutrients for vegetarians including protein, n-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, iodine, calcium, and vitamins D and B-12. A vegetarian diet can meet current recommendations for all of these nutrients. In some cases, supplements or fortified foods can provide useful amounts of important nutrients. An evidence- based review showed that vegetarian diets can be nutritionally adequate in pregnancy and result in positive maternal and infant health outcomes. The results of an evidence-based review showed that a vegetarian diet is associated with a lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease. Vegetarians also appear to have lower low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension and type 2 diabetes than nonvegetarians. Furthermore, vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index and lower overall cancer rates. Features of a vegetarian diet that may reduce risk of chronic disease include lower intakes of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, soy products, fiber, and phytochemicals. The variability of dietary practices among vegetarians makes individual assessment of dietary adequacy essential. In addition to assessing dietary adequacy, food and nutrition professionals can also play key roles in educating vegetarians about sources of specific nutrients, food purchase and preparation, and dietary modifications to meet their needs.

  • Linn

    Vegetarians have 19% less bone loss and vegans have 34% less bones loss compared to omnivores, which impacts your sections on both vitamin D and calcium. Milk consumption by country correlates to rate of osteoporosis.

    You stated in a comment that some people do better with more and some with less of the nutrients listed here. If this is the case, your article should reflect that. As it stands, it’s one-sided.

    You state in your introduction “However, there are many nutrients that are only found in animal products.” This is untrue.

    There are cases above where you appear to be uninterested in providing vegan sources of nutrients listed, which is misleading.

  • Dia

    Seriously? Eating several kilograms of potatoes / sweet potatoes gives enough Zinc on its own and 36g of iron intake everyday just by eating starches. Oranges are rich in calcium as well.

  • eczemahealingblog

    While I agree with most of your opinions on vegan nutrition. I can’t disagree more on your comment re Autoimmunity are better served with a higher protein, meat, and seafood based diet… I have suffered from eczema for a long time and I can tell you taking a high protein, lots of meat or high seafood diet is going to cause major flare up in no time.

    I go all vegan when I have bad outbreak but normally I take a plant based diet with about 20% meat (fish, pork, chicken) which calms my skin. If anyone is doing vegan, I suggest taking a lot of rice, legumes, tofu to fulfill the protein and calcium need and add B12 supplements.

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      Not everyone does well with high protein diets (protein feeds immune system), true, but I haven’t had a client who has done better on a vegan diet.

      If that’s the case, go on a low protein, but not vegan diet. Do some intermittent fasting.

      1. eczemahealingblog

        if you google about, there’s all sort of testimonial on how vegan diet helps relief eczema.

  • Elizabeth Martin

    Great article, needless to say many vegetarians aren’t aware of 90% of these. This is part of why i believe the best diet is a balanced one.

  • pamojja

    Just read this position paper, which adds riboflavin to the list:

    Abstract
    On the basis of current scientifc literature, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) has developed a position on the vegan diet. With a pure plant-based diet, it is diffcult or impossible to attain an adequate supply of some nutrients. The most critical nutrient is vitamin B12. Other potentially critical nutrients in a vegan diet include protein resp. indispensable amino acids, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, other vitamins (riboflavin, vitamin D) and minerals (calcium, iron, iodine, zinc and selenium). The DGE does not recommend a vegan diet for pregnant women, lactating women, infants, children or adolescents. Persons who nevertheless wish to follow a vegan diet should permanently take a vitamin B12 supplement, pay attention to an adequate intake of nutrients, especially critical nutrients, and possibly use fortifed foods or dietary supplements. They should receive advice from a nutrition counsellor and their supply of critical nutrients should be regularly checked by a physician.
    https://www.ernaehrungs-umschau.de/fileadmin/Ernaehrungs-Umschau/pdfs/pdf_2016/04_16/EU04_2016_Special_DGE_eng_final.pdf

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      Thanks, I added that and two more!

  • Brett

    In the paper ‘The NAD Deficiency Diseases,’ John P. Cleary M.D. says that meat is the most abundant source of B3 (niacin) and that “Since the development of agriculture, humans have been susceptible to to what I call the niacin deficiency or NAD deficiency diseases, through partial adaptation to less meat in the diet.”

  • silentrotation

    There are two major studies that show that vegans in particular have 13% higher testosterone than meat-eaters or the same degree of testosterone. And vegans live longer.

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      Show me the studies

      1. silentrotation

        You have them right there below in Yumin Tchen’s comment of August 16!

    2. christianschwalbach

      I would say that anybody who eats a whole food diet will live longer,vegan or “paleo” . Most vegans probably pay more attention to their diet than the average bub, who may eat meat, but also lots of other junk. Lets see Vegan vs. Paleo type diet…..Likely much less variance

  • Yumin Tchen

    The Oxford Vegetarian Study of 1999 states.. “There were no significant differences in mean concentrations of testosterone (total or free) or estradiol between vegans and omnivores, but SHBG was 23% higher in the vegans (P = 0.001). ” [SHBG binds to T and increases availability, perhaps reducing free T, but low SHBG leads to health problems as well.. http://blog.insidetracker.com/testosterone-action-versus-testosterone-levels-why-shbg-matters# ]
    “death rates were lower in non-meat-eaters than in meat eaters.”
    “Other analyses showed that non-meat-eaters had only half the risk of meat eaters of requiring an emergency appendectomy, and that vegans in Britain may be at risk for iodine deficiency. Thus, the health of vegetarians in this study is generally good and compares favorably with that of the nonvegetarian control subjects.”
    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/525s.full
    “A British Journal of Cancer study of 696 men (233 of whom were vegans) concluded this: “Vegans had 13% higher T [testosterone] concentration than meat-eaters and 8% higher than vegetarians.” Not only did vegan men have as much testosterone as meat eaters, they actually have 13% MORE of this manly hormone. On the flip side, too much testosterone can be a bad thing because it leads to higher levels of IGF-I – a risk factor for certain cancers. Surprisingly, the report also found this: “Vegan men had on average 9% lower IGF-I levels than meat-eaters.” A big boost in T and added protection against IGF-I? Win and win.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2374537/pdf/83-6691152a.pdf
    from ..
    Soy may not be good in large quantity, but it seems that there is evidence that non-meat-eating is not detrimental to male hormones. And they live longer.

  • joker-san

    You make a reasonable case against vegan diets, although many of those deficiencies may be supplemented with better food choices such as seaweed (for iron, iodine, omega 3 fats etc…) or brazil nuts (for selenium) or just healthy habits such as exposure to the sun (vitamin D3).

    However, when it comes to vegetarian diets, from your post is seems almost everything that could be had from meats can be had from dairy or eggs as well.

  • Yumin Tchen

    The Oxford Vegetarian Study of 1999 states.. “There were no significant differences in mean concentrations of testosterone (total or free) or estradiol between vegans and omnivores, but SHBG was 23% higher in the vegans (P = 0.001). ” [SHBG binds to T and increases availability, perhaps reducing free T, but low SHBG leads to health problems as well.. http://blog.insidetracker.com/testosterone-action-versus-testosterone-levels-why-shbg-matters# ]
    “death rates were lower in non-meat-eaters than in meat eaters.”
    “Other analyses showed that non-meat-eaters had only half the risk of meat eaters of requiring an emergency appendectomy, and that vegans in Britain may be at risk for iodine deficiency. Thus, the health of vegetarians in this study is generally good and compares favorably with that of the nonvegetarian control subjects.”
    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/70/3/525s.full

    “A British Journal of Cancer study of 696 men (233 of whom were vegans) concluded this: “Vegans had 13% higher T [testosterone] concentration than meat-eaters and 8% higher than vegetarians.” Not only did vegan men have as much testosterone as meat eaters, they actually have 13% MORE of this manly hormone. On the flip side, too much testosterone can be a bad thing because it leads to higher levels of IGF-I – a risk factor for certain cancers. Surprisingly, the report also found this: “Vegan men had on average 9% lower IGF-I levels than meat-eaters.” A big boost in T and added protection against IGF-I? Win and win.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2374537/pdf/83-6691152a.pdf
    from ..

    Soy may not be good in large quantity, but it seems that there is evidence that non-meat-eating is not detrimental to male hormones. And they live longer.

  • Martin Hresko

    “Vegetarians have significantly lower testosterone levels than meat eaters.”

    The source you site : http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1435181 states :

    “In conclusion, 6 wk on a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet caused a minor decrease in total testosterone and no significant changes in physical performance in male endurance athletes compared with 6 wk on a mixed, meat rich diet.”

    So I don’t know how you stretch “minor decrease” to “significantly lower” given that the physical performance of both groups were the same.

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      Statistically significant

  • Yumin Tchen

    1) I take a good EPA/DHA vegetarian capsule from DEVA.

    2) I take vitamin D3 (which has better absorption than D2) vegetarian capsule made from wool

    3) Taurine supplementation seems to be a good idea for coronary health (platelet, hypertension, maybe even diabetic and hypertension and other things) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15288360 Thanks for the heads up! And there are a number of good vegetarian sources such as Solgar etc. since Taurine is in high concentration in Red algae and Nuts! But vegans and vegetarians are at risk for Taurine deficiency. http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-7f.shtml

    4) Carnitine is present if vegans have enough protein, but can be supplemented by vegetarian tablets like NOW Sports. Especially if getting migraines. http://veganhealth.org/articles/amino

    5) Zinc is synergistic with Taurine and can be vegetarian supplemented.

    6) Vegans generally do not show symptoms of Vitamin A deficiency, so the conversion of beta carotene to active vitamin A may not be as efficient, it looks to be sufficient. Too much Vitamin A can act as a poison!
    http://www.beyondveg.com/billings-t/comp-anat/comp-anat-7f.shtml

  • Cosmicblueprint

    So what you’re basically saying is that well respected doctors such as Michael Greger, Caldwell Esselstyn, Colin Campbell and others, including the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the American Dietetic Association, which says: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. A vegetarian diet is defined as one that does not include meat (including fowl) or seafood, or products containing those foods,” are wrong.

    1. Hans

      Yes, they’re wrong. Just use a tool like cron-o-meter and see how hard it is to meet your nutritional needs on a vegan diet and how easy it is on a mixed whole-foods diet.

      1. Matt

        Last time I checked it wasn’t deficiency but rather excess that is the cause of most of the health problems in the West.

    2. Hans

      So it’s wrong to question the established recommendations? Is that how scientific progress works?

    3. Hans

      Dr. Greger himself made a video in which he said that vegans are most likely deficient in several of the nutrients listed here and suggested supplementation.

    4. Brett

      Yup, they’re wrong about a lot of things! They also say that eating 6 – 11 servings of bread or “healthy whole grains” a day is the optimal foundation of a healthy diet.

  • cognito182

    hi nice articel . can u also wirte about the alcidic alkaline myth ? vegan diet and the alkaline level are the two most popular helath topics and they do nothing for the healths of most people

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      Will do 🙂

      1. Matt

        What’s next? I guess you are going to say oxidative stress is not the cause of most chronic disease.

        Just come out and admit that you have some vested interest in keeping the public confused about good nutrition. This article is just evidence that the meat/dairy industry is beginning its death-throws.

  • Matt

    I don’t wish to question the sincerity of this post, however, it seems more political than scientific. This statement for example: “Vegan diets are often praised for their health benefits. However, there are many nutrients that are only found in animal products.” Is false.

    The only nutrient which is lacking in plant foods is B12. Witch of-course comes from bacteria and can be present in water or other sources of food such as shitakae mushrooms or nutritional yeast. However it is prudent vegans suppliment with B12 (as should everyone living in a modern society). Because we no longer obtain adequate B12 from our environment.

    As for Zinc, Iron, Calcium, and Methionine. Well beans are a great source for all of these nutrients.

    The real health problem is Metabolic Syndrome caused by excessive consumption of animal products, not nutrient deficiency in vegans.

    A consern for the average person should be the lack of fiber in their diet. This is perhaps the greatest nutritional deficiency that our society currently faces.

  • Brett

    I was vegetarian and then vegan for 15 years. Can confirm this article is true. My worst deficiencies, listed in order of negative impact were: B12, DHA/EPA, iodine, Zinc, D3, B2, iron, carsonine, carnitine, creatine. I also had high copper, low testosterone, low thyroid, gut problems, lost collagen, was skinny and looked bad, hypoglycemia from replying on carbs for energy. You don’t notice it right away, it takes at least 5 years for some of the deficiencies to develop. I had to spend several years and several thousand dollars on tests & supplements to help untangle the mess. The upside was that I now know a lot more about health than at age 18, I did when I decided to go vegetarian in a Grateful Dead show parking lot.

    1. Daniel

      All what you had was probably a gluten intolerance not allowing you to absorb nutrients. Some of those nutrients you listed are not even essential, and all the others are in plants except B12. EVERYONE needs to supplement B12. Meat eaters are deficient in B12. Why is that so hard to understand? Vitamin D is not diet related either. You seriously have no clue as to what you’re talking about. Look at Dr. Ellsworth Wareham, for example. He has been whole foods vegan for 50 years! All what you need to avoid is wheat, barley, rye, and maybe oats.

  • Yumin Tchen

    Vegan B12 is available (from yeast). Better is the more absorbable Methyl B12. One only needs small amounts daily or a larger amount once a week. I take 2,000 mcg one day a week, it’s very cheap and chewable. There are no plant sources of B12, some plants and algae or soy have B12 “analogues” that show up as B12 in blood tests but are not active in the body! (some vegan site does not know that). Even 5% of carnivores have B12 deficiency, mostly due to absorption problems. Vegetarians and vegans have much more.

  • Matt

    To have less of something is not to say that you have inadequate levels. It is preferable to have a lower intake of certain nutrients.

    For example: Heme iron and protein. Because excessive amounts cause oxidative stress, and therefore an inflammatory response. The cause of most chronic disease.

    1. Joseph M. Cohen

      Depends on the individual. Some people need more, some less. Vegetarian diet doesn’t suit those who do better with more

      1. Matt

        More what,dietary cholesterol? Do you even nutrition bro?

    2. Joseph M. Cohen

      That’s person specific though

  • Neil Cheesman

    Suggest you read The China Study by Dr T. Colin Campbell and Dr Thomas Campbell

    1. Joseph M. Cohen
      1. moro

        somehow on my 3y of veganism my checks are still good and iron is very high also calcium…
        anyway if you was on a vegan diet was a healthy diet or a junk ? x

        1. Joseph M. Cohen

          Very healthy

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