Study Title:

Intake of micronutrients and fatty acids of vegetarian, vegan, and omnivorous children (1-3 years) in Germany (VeChi Diet Study).

Study Abstract

Purpose: There is an ongoing debate whether vegetarian (VG) and especially vegan (VN) diets are nutritionally adequate in early childhood. Hence, the Vegetarian and Vegan Children Study (VeChi Diet Study) aimed to assess the food and nutrient intake of VG and VN infants.

Methods: The study examined the diets of 1-3-year-old VG, VN, and omnivorous (OM) children (n = 430). Dietary intake was assessed via a 3-day weighed dietary record and compared between groups using ANCOVA. Lifestyle data were collected using a questionnaire. Here, the results of micronutrient and fatty acid intakes are presented.

Results: Most nutrient intakes (with and without supplements) differed significantly between VN children and the two other groups, with a more favourable overall micronutrient intake in VN, followed by VG children, [e.g., the highest intake of vitamin E (8.3 mg/d vs. VG 7.4 mg/d and OM 5.1 mg/d), vitamin B1 (569 µg/d vs. VG 513 µg/d and OM 481 µg/d), folate (143 µg/d vs. VG 116 µg/d and OM 108 µg/d), magnesium (241 mg/d vs. VG 188 mg/d and OM 164 mg/d), and iron (8.9 mg/d vs. VG 7.3 mg/d and OM 6.0 mg/d)] as well as fat quality [highest intake of polyunsaturated fatty acids (8.7 E% vs. VG 6.9 E% and OM 4.5 E%) and lowest intake of saturated fatty acids (9.1 E% vs. VG 11.9 E% and OM 14.0 E%)]. In contrast, OM children had the highest intake of vitamin B2 (639 µg/d vs. VG 461 µg/d and VN 429 µg/d), calcium (445 mg/d vs. VG 399 mg/d and VN 320 mg/d), iodine (47 µg/d vs. VG 33 µg/d and VN 31 µg/d), and DHA (35.4 mg/d vs. VG 16.6 mg/d and VN 18.4 mg/d). Without supplementation, OM children had the highest average vitamin B12 intake (1.5 µg/d vs. VG 0.6 µg/d and VN 0.2 µg/d), whereas VN children had the highest average vitamin B12 intake with supplementation (73.8 µg/d vs. VG 1.3 µg/d and OM 1.7 µg/d). Without supplementation, none of the groups' median intakes met the harmonised Average Requirement (h-AR) for vitamin D and iodine. Moreover, VG and VN children did not achieve h-ARs for vitamin B2, vitamin B12, and iron-if a low absorption of iron is anticipated; VN children also did not do so for calcium.

Conclusion: In early childhood, VN and VG diets can provide most micronutrients in desirable amounts and a preferable fat quality compared to an OM diet. Special focus should be paid to (potentially) critical nutrients, particularly vitamin D, iodine, and DHA for all children regardless of diet, as well as vitamin B2, vitamin B12, calcium, and iron for VG and VN children.

Study Information

Eur J Nutr. 2022 Apr;61(3):1507-1520. doi: 10.1007/s00394-021-02753-3. Epub 2021 Dec 2. PMID: 34855006; PMCID: PMC8921058.

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