Meat-eaters signing up to Veganuary could be putting their health at risk by losing out on vital vitamins and minerals

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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  • Study found meat-eaters saw a reduction in levels of vitamin B12 and iodine 

Signing up to Veganuary could cause meat-eaters to risk their health by losing out on vital vitamins and minerals.

Many people think a poorly planned switch to vegan food for the month of January is harmless, as it lasts just four weeks.

But a study, tracking the diet of people who joined Veganuary in two separate years, found meat-eaters saw a significant reduction in their levels of vitamin B12 and iodine if they did not take dietary supplements.

Iodine – which is important for brain development in unborn children – is added to cows’ milk, so is found in dairy products as well as eggs and various types of seafood. 

Meanwhile, a deficiency of vitamin B12, which is only found in animal products, has been linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and temporary infertility.

Signing up to Veganuary could cause meat-eaters to risk their health by losing out on vital vitamins and minerals (Stock image)

A study, tracking the diet of people who joined Veganuary in two separate years, found meat-eaters saw a significant reduction in their levels of vitamin B12 and iodine if they did not take dietary supplements (Stock image)

A study, tracking the diet of people who joined Veganuary in two separate years, found meat-eaters saw a significant reduction in their levels of vitamin B12 and iodine if they did not take dietary supplements (Stock image)

The new study, involving 154 people and published in the journal Nutrients, found meat-eaters who went vegan for January also reduced their level of cholesterol and saturated fatty acid, which could separately lower their risk of cardiovascular disease and help to lose weight.

But the researchers conclude that people doing Veganuary need to plan their diet properly and risk of losing out on important nutrients if they simply choose convenient vegan milk and meat substitutes.

Dr Simon Welham, senior author of the study, from the University of Nottingham, said: ‘Veganuary can be done perfectly healthily, if followed sensibly, but otherwise it can have an effect on people’s nutrient levels, even after only a month.

‘It is important that people switching to vegan milks, for example, check that they are fortified with iodine, or try to buy foods with iodine in, like iodised salt.

‘Plant milks and some breakfast cereals can also contain vitamin B12.

‘There are people who sign up to this month-long lifestyle change who do not make much effort to think about it and may rely too much on processed vegan alternative foods which are lacking in nutrients.

‘The advice for them, based on this study, is to check the label – particularly for things like iodine which is added to some plant milks.’

The new study found meat-eaters who went vegan for January also reduced their level of cholesterol and saturated fatty acid (Stock image)

The new study found meat-eaters who went vegan for January also reduced their level of cholesterol and saturated fatty acid (Stock image)

The study looked at meat-eaters and vegetarians aged 18 to 60 who signed up for Veganuary, comparing them to vegans, vegetarians and meat-eaters who kept eating as normal.

Meat-eaters who did Veganuary were calculated to see a 10-fold reduction in their cholesterol, but they also saw a significant reduction in iodine.

Commenting on the study, TV dietitian Dr Carrie Ruxton, said: ‘Switching to a vegan diet needs careful preparation as animal foods are rich sources of several essential nutrients, particularly vitamins B12, iodine, iron, zinc and selenium.

‘Instead of battling through four weeks on a nutritionally unbalanced vegan diet, Brits could make longer term, practical changes to their existing diets by eating more wholegrain foods, aiming for five daily servings of fruit and vegetables, cooking meals at home, and cutting down on sweets, takeaways and fizzy drinks.’

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