London - Vegan diets could be putting the intelligence of the next generation at risk, a nutritionist has warned.
The growing fad for "plant-based" diets risks creating mass deficiency in choline – a nutrient which is critical to brain development.
Choline – which is found in meat, fish, eggs and dairy products – is particularly important during pregnancy, when it contributes to the healthy growth of a baby’s brain.
British food expert Dr Emma Derbyshire warned of the "unintended consequences" of moving away from diets based on meat and dairy.
Dr Derbyshire, who was writing in the BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health journal, said that those following a vegan diet risk dulling the brain power of the next generation, adding: ‘Plant-based diets are great and brilliant for the environment.
"But in terms of reducing intake of choline – which is vital for foetal brain development – no one had given it much thought."
She added: "The train is moving so fast, and more people are ditching meat and eggs. But it could leave many women of childbearing age deficient in this key nutrient."
Choline is also produced by the liver, but not in high enough quantities to meet the everyday requirements of the body. Additional choline must therefore be obtained through dietary sources, warned Dr Derbyshire, a public health nutritionist who runs the Nutritional Insight Limited health consultancy in London.
She said: "If choline is not obtained in the levels needed from dietary sources... supplementation strategies will be required, especially in relation to key stages of the life cycle, such as pregnancy, when choline intakes are critical to infant development."
Market research suggests we are eating less meat than ever before.Daily Mail