Vegans may be missing out on essential nutrients and are potentially at risk for neurological disorders, anemia and other health issues, a new study has warned.

In a 2012 Gallup poll, 2 percent of the American population appeared to follow a vegan diet, a strict plant-based program that leaves out all animal-derived food sources. There are also individuals who choose the vegan life for health, environmental, ethical and religious purposes.

While previous research have demonstrated the health benefits of this diet, including reduced hypertension and improvements in heart health and mortality rates, could vegans also be deficient in important nutrients?

Physicians from the Mayo Clinic conducted a review of recent research monitoring the nutrient intake of vegans, particularly of vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, protein and omega-3 fats.

The review demonstrated that while vegans were not lacking in protein or specific amino acids, they run the risk of being deficient in others.

“We found that some of these nutrients, which can have implications in neurologic disorders, anemia, bone strength and other health concerns, can be deficient in poorly planned vegan diets,” reports Dr. Heather Fields of Mayo Clinic’s Community and Internal Medicine.

The review also pinpointed the heavy reliance of some vegans on processed foods, as well as limited intake of a range of whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Some may need to be educated on properly planning their vegan diet to include nutritious whole foods, added the researchers.

The team recommended doctors to monitor vegans, particularly ensuring that they have sufficient blood levels of the said nutrients.

The findings were discussed in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

A separate study published early this month found that a vegan diet can reduce prostate cancer risk in men by 35 percent. In separate research, a meatless diet of fish and vegetables also emerged helpful in decreasing the risk of colorectal cancer.

More than out of health concerns, people adopt veganism because of personal principles such as animal rights. Many believe that animals have the right to exist with freedom and without human intervention, promoting a “cruelty-free lifestyle,” according to Vegan Action.

The environment is another reason for going vegan, emphasizing the devastating effects of livestock farming, including accelerated topsoil erosion and widespread land conversion.

Some famous personalities who follow the vegan or vegetarian way are Alicia Silverstone, Joaquin Phoenix, Paul McCartney, Prince, Gillian Anderson and Pamela Anderson.

Photo: Sonny Abesamis | Flickr

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