Avoiding the consumption of food of animal origin is an increasingly common practice among humans. But a nutrition expert warned of the mental health consequences of this diet.
Choline is an essential nutrient that is part of the B vitamin complex. The main sources of this nutrient in the diet are beef, eggs, dairy products, fish and chicken. It can also be found, at much lower levels, in nuts, beans and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli. Choline is important for the performance of various brain functions such as memory, mood, muscle control and can even prevent the decline in mental health that happens over time.
Those who do not eat meat may be depriving themselves of this essential nutrient, warns nutrition expert Emma Derbyshire, in an article written for the British Medical Journal Nutrition, Prevention & Health. Derbyshire argues that many people no longer consume the recommended daily doses and the growing increase in plant-based diets could increase problem.
“Physiologically, choline is essential for several functions throughout the life cycle, with choline deficiency being linked to liver disease and neurological disorders and children’s cognitive function,” she said, quoted by the Telegraph. “[Alerting to this issue] is more important today than ever.”
In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published dietary guidelines that suggest a daily intake of 400 mg choline for adults and those over 15 and 480 mg for pregnant women. However, average European consumption is currently below that level.
The article further argues that choline accelerates the creation and release of a protein called acetylcholine, which carries signals between brain cells. It has been found that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, have low levels of acetylcholine and the drugs used to treat the early stages of the disease, serve to increase the levels of this protein.
A study at Harvard University also found that people whose diets include large amounts of choline perform better on cognitive and memory tests.
To counter argument, the Telegraph News cites Tom Sanders, professor of nutrition at King’s College London, who says it is possible to get enough choline from other foods: “Choline can be produced in the body and is also abundant in many foods vegetables, including soy (…) There is not enough justification to suggest that the plant-based diet puts brain development at risk. My own research on vegans in Europe and the USA considers the growth and development of vegans and vegetarians to be normal ”.
In May of this year, the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium already issued an opinion in which it warned of “very serious” cases of imposition of veganism on children, which forced their hospitalization.