Position of the German Nutrition Society (DGE)
The vegan diet is exclusively restricted to the consumption of plant-based foods. As with other forms of vegetarian diets, it is becoming increasingly popular among the population of the Western world. It is not known precise- ly how many individuals in Germany adhere to a vegan diet. The data vary between 0.1% and 1% of the population, corresponding to between 81,000 and 810,000 individuals.
Excluding animal foods from the diet is usually a conscious and voluntary decision [1, 2]. A vegan diet as part of a “Western” lifestyle differs from a “traditional” plant- based diet, which is mostly practiced in developing countries, where it is often accompanied by restricted food availability and low energy intake, due to low incomes and lev- els of education . In Western countries, the typical vegetarian is female, young, educated and wealthy, lives in a city and follows a “healthy lifestyle” [1, 2].
On the basis of current scientific literature, the German Nutrition Society (DGE) has developed a position on the vegan diet. With a pure plant-based diet, it is difficult or impossible to attain an adequate supply of some nutrients. The most critical nutrient is vitamin B12. Other potentially critical nutrients in a vegan diet include protein resp. indispensable amino acids, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, other vitamins (riboflavin, vitamin D) and minerals (calcium, iron, iodine, zinc and selenium). The DGE does not recommend a vegan diet for pregnant women, lactating women, infants, children or adolescents. Persons who nevertheless wish to follow a vegan diet should permanently take a vitamin B12 supplement, pay attention to an adequate intake of nutrients, especially critical nutrients, and possibly use fortified foods or dietary supplements. They should receive advice from a nutrition counsellor and their supply of critical nutrients should be regularly checked by a physician.
Keywords: vegan diet, critical nutrients, vitamin B12
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