Pay attention to risks of vegan diet: Expert

With mounting evidence linking diet to neurodegenerative damage, the trend of vegan diet in India could be a concern for the population, particularly pregnant women, an Australian expert warned Wednesday.

IANS| Updated: Dec 10, 2014, 21:26 PM IST

Kolkata: With mounting evidence linking diet to neurodegenerative damage, the trend of vegan diet in India could be a concern for the population, particularly pregnant women, an Australian expert warned Wednesday.

Dietary vegans (or strict vegetarians) refrain from consuming animal products, not only meat but, in contrast to ovo-lacto vegetarians, also eggs, dairy products and other animal-derived substances.

Vegan diet eliminates natural food sources of Vitamin B12. This deficiency could have side effects such as anaemia, nerve damage, heart disease and pregnancy complications.

"The concern for India is going too much vegan. This essentially means going without foods which are the sources of B12.

"There are hints that dietary patterns influence brain health and lack of micronutrients like B12 could have implications in cognitive functions," Michael Fenech, Scientist at Division of Animal, Food and Health Sciences, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia, told IANS on the sidelines of a lecture here.

He was speaking at the 4th Asian Conference on Environmental Mutagens at the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology.

Highlighting the lack of studies in India on dietary patterns, Fenech said the focus should be on a holistic approach towards nutrition.

"More is not always better. The focus should be on addressing multiple deficiencies rather than one or two and being careful of excesses," he said.

Another concern for going the vegan way, according to Fenech, is the deprivation of omega-3 fatty acids from the diet, a micronutrient important for heart health.

"While people are catching on to veganism, it is necessary to study what this holds for different communities in India, like pregnant women," he said.