Study Title:

[Alternative nutrition and glutathione levels]

Study Abstract

Background: Low protein quality and quantity is reported to be a possible risk of alternative nutrition. Pulses contain 18-41% of methionine in relation to reference protein, moreover, its content in cereals is by one half lower. Therefore vegetarians and vegans may have an insufficient intake of sulphur-containing amino acids that may subsequently affect glutathione values (precursors of its synthesis).

Methods and results: In groups of adults on an alternative diet--lactoovovegetarians (n = 47) and vegans (n = 44) aged 19-62 years with average duration on a vegetarian or vegan diet of 7.6 and 4.9 years, respectively, glutathione levels (GSH) were measured in erythrocytes (spectrophotometrically), as well as the activity of GSH-dependent enzymes. As nutritional control (n = 42) served an average sample of omnivores selected from a group of 489 examined, apparently healthy subjects of the same age range living in the same region. One to low protein intake (56% of RDA) exclusively of plant origin significantly lower levels of total proteins were observed in vegans with a 16% frequency of hypoproteinaemia (vs 0% in omnivores). In comparison to omnivores a significantly lower glutathione level was found (4.28 +/- 0.12 vs 4.84 +/- 0.14 mumol/g Hb, P < 0.01). Lactoovovegetarians because of their protein intake in adequate amounts with a 27% proportion of animal proteins (dairy products, eggs) consume a balanced mixture of amino acids, which is reflected in total protein levels similar to omnivores and significantly higher values of glutathione -5.26 +/- 0.12 mumol/g Hb, P < 0.05 (intake of glutathione in diet, higher consumption of fruit and vegetable in comparison to omnivores). A sufficient supply of glutathione as the substrate for enzymatic reactions of hydrogen peroxide or lipid hydroperoxide catabolism, as well as for detoxication of xenobiotics, was reflected in lactoovovegetarians in a significantly higher activity of glutathione-peroxidase and glutathione-S-transferase in erythrocytes.

Conclusions: Low protein intake exclusively of plant origin, significantly lower protein levels with 16% frequency of hypoproteinaemia, significantly lower glutathione values in blood in comparison to omnivores and lactoovovegetarians confirm the risk of a vegan diet also in adult age.

Study Information

Cas Lek Cesk. 1999 Aug 30;138(17):528-31. Slovak. PMID: 10566232.

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