June 19, 2024

How a vegan diet affects your brain – BBC REEL



Published May 20, 2023, 3:20 p.m. by Monica Louis


A vegan diet may help improve your cognitive function and protect your brain from age-related decline, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Oxford found that people who followed a vegan diet had better scores on tests of memory and executive function than those who didn’t.

The study, which is the first of its kind, looked at data from more than 30,000 people over a period of five years.

The findings, which are published in the journal Neurology, suggest that a vegan diet could help to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Lead author Claire Walnut, from the University of Oxford, said: “We found that people who followed a vegan diet had better cognitive function than those who didn’t.

“Our findings suggest that a vegan diet could help to protect the brain from age-related decline.”

The study also found that people who followed a vegetarian or pescatarian diet had better cognitive function than those who ate meat.

Walnut said that the findings “support the idea that what you eat could affect your brain health”.

She added: “The study can’t prove cause and effect, but it adds to the evidence that a healthy diet is good for your cognition as well as your heart.”

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so you're thinking of trying out

veganism well you're not alone according

to a poll the number of vegans in

Britain quadrupled between 2014 and 2016

from 150 000 to 600 000. and the good

news for vegans is that there are some

known health benefits for example they

tend to have lower cholesterol and blood

pressure than omnibores which means they

have a lower risk of heart disease

but what impact can a vegan diet have on

the brain

it's often assumed that animal foods are

just a source of protein and iron

however did you know that some key

nutrients for brain health are found

predominantly or even exclusively in

animal derived Foods

one such nutrient found in fish meat

poultry eggs and dairy products is

vitamin B12

vitamin B12 deficiencies can lead such

profound marks on the brain that they

are visible in brain scans

there are now over 40 individual case

reports of babies as young as two weeks

being hospitalized due to B12 deficiency

after being born and exclusively

breastfed by strict vegetarian or vegan

mothers

with recent surveys indicating that 38

of UK vegans are females aged 16 to 44.

it is important that vegans and

vegetarians especially those planning

pregnancy are aware of the need to

supplement with B12

if you are following a strict vegan diet

it's worth being aware of some of the

low level symptoms of B12 deficiency

such as headache fatigue poor

concentration and brain fog and low mood

and depression

and although vegans have a lower risk of

heart disease they have a higher risk of

the most common type of stroke compared

to meat eaters which is thought at least

in part to be due to low levels of B12

another brain healthy nutrient found

most abundantly in animal Foods is

choline found in liver egg yolks beef

and oily fish your body uses choline to

produce a neurotransmitter called

acetylcholine which plays key roles in

learning memory attention motivation and

healthy sleep

the amount of choline in the diet

influences how much acetylcholine is

available in the brain and central

nervous system and since plant foods

contain much less this puts vegans at

risk of insufficiency

the good news is that another compound

called betaine might be able to do some

of the work of choline

betaine is found in whole grains spinach

and beetroot however more research is

required to clarify the potential role

of butane

and in the meantime lecithin is a useful

plant-based source of choline which can

be bought as a supplement

now according to the World Health

Organization the single most important

preventable cause of brain damage

worldwide

iodine deficiency

this is linked to intellectual and

cognitive deficits across populations

iodine is a mineral naturally rich in

seaweed fish and seafood it's also added

to animal feed so our other main dietary

sources are dairy eggs and outside of

the UK iodized salt

for this reason a range of studies

report that omnivores typically meet or

exceed the adequate intake for iodine

however vegetarians have moderate to low

amounts and vegans hover at around 20 to

30 percent of the adequate intake

and of course they can't end without

mentioning the omega-3 fats these

Irreplaceable fats are not just the

building blocks of brain cells they are

also essential for mood regulation cell

signaling and for switching off

inflammation

unfortunately hardly anyone whether

they're vegan or not is eating enough of

the food sources of these fats oily fish

for vegans and algae-based omega-3

supplement may be helpful

overall a well-planned vegan diet can be

delicious nutritious and environmentally

friendly

but the moral of the story is that if

you're going to cut out any food group

from your regular diet it's important to

first check with a qualified

nutritionist to see if there's any

nutrient deficiencies that you need to

look out for

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