We are aware of recent media reports about vegan diets and choline, a nutrient used to make substances that transfer signals between nerve cells, among other roles. These reports have misrepresented the evidence base and suggested that vegan nutrition is unhealthy due to a lack of choline, particularly for children - this is NOT true.
The leading authority on nutrition in the UK, the British Dietetic Association, shares the message that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages, including children and pregnant women. The BDA has explicitly said: “You absolutely can meet the [choline] requirements with a vegan or plant-based diet.”
Choline is very easily obtainable on a vegan diet. No dietary targets for choline intakes have been set by UK nutrition experts, which is one reason why many people had never heard about it before the recent media reports.
These sensationalised articles are based on a study carried out by Dr Emma Derbyshire, a nutritionist who is a member of the Meat Advisory Panel. Her report showed that the UK is failing to recommend and monitor dietary levels of choline, both for vegans and non-vegans.
Please find below a statement from us on this issue. We have shared this information with the media and anyone concerned about their choline intake.
Heather Russell, registered dietitian working at The Vegan Society, said: “Choline requirements and intakes in different dietary groups are poorly defined at present.
"This nutrient is widely distributed in plant foods because it’s present in cell membranes. Soya products, quinoa and broccoli are some of the best plant-based sources.
"You do not need to take a choline supplement when you switch to totally plant-based nutrition if you eat a balanced and varied diet containing plenty of minimally processed plant foods. The evidence base shows that this way of eating can support excellent health.”
Choline is not a nutrient that deserves special attention for those following a vegan diet. You can find out about nutrients that do through our comprehensive nutrition pages, written by a registered dietitian, at www.vegansociety.com/nutrition.