Plant-based diet risks worsening brain health nutrient deficiency, warns nutritionist


By Oliver Morrison, Food Navigator



The shift towards more plant-based foods and reduced meat consumption among Europe’s consumers risks worsening an already low intake of choline, says Dr Emma Derbyshire of Nutritional Insight.


Accelerating consumer trends towards plant-based and vegan diets risks lowering people’s intake of choline, according to a nutritionist.


Choline is a critical nutrient needed for neurocognition, lipid metabolism, liver function and homocysteine regulation and important for memory, mood and muscle control. The primary sources of dietary choline are found in beef, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken, with much lower levels found in nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli.


It is likened to omega-3 fatty acids in that it is an ‘essential’ nutrient that cannot be produced by the body in amounts needed for human requirements. Choline deficiency is linked to liver disease, offspring cognitive function and potential neurological disorders.


In the UK, choline is not yet included in food composition databases, main nutrition surveys or official recommendations. In 1998, the US Institute of Medicine recommended minimum daily intakes. These range from 425 mg/day for women to 550 mg/day for men, and 450 mg/day and 550 mg/day for pregnant and breastfeeding women, respectively, because of the critical role the nutrient has in foetal development. In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority published similar daily requirements.


Choline is found in egg yolks, lean red meat, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts and cruciferous vegetables. Values are for total choline, the sum of individual choline forms. Source: data extracted from Wiedeman et al (2018).


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