Tags: vegetarian | diet | nutrition | deficiencies

Can Vegetarian Diets Cause Nutritional Deficiencies?

By    |   Friday, 05 December 2014 03:43 PM

Question: My 18-year-old son is an athlete who has decided he wants to become a vegetarian. Is that a problem, since he plays high school sports? Are there any nutritional issues he needs to be aware of?

Dr. Hibberd's answer:
You are correct. By eliminating all animal and seafood, there will be nutritional issues that will need his attention. Deficiencies can sneak up on vegetarians without much warning, and long term supplementation is usually advised for those on vegetarian diets.
Sometimes a deficiency is masked by an incorrect balance of other compounds. Although it may appear that adequate amounts of essential nutrients are present when diet components are analyzed, or other compounds may be present  that compete with nutrient availability or absorption, this is often when we see unanticipated deficiencies.
So, deficiencies may occur despite an apparent adequate intake — even when labeling is considered. Severe adverse health issues must be avoided by close attention to deficiency issues when pure vegetarian diets are followed.
Vegan diets are popular today, but a safety alert should sound when someone decides to become exclusively vegetarian. The differing proteins, ratios of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and other nutrients in a vegetarian diet are often unrecognized by consumers and some deficiencies can lead to irreversible consequences. Close attention to several essential diet components are going to be necessary when consuming a vegetarian diet.

Here are some essential components that often are deficient in vegetarian:
Iron: Essential for blood cell and immune function especially in menstruating women. Deficiencies can cause anemia, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, mood disorders, concentration problems, immune-system stress, and heart palpitations.
Vitamin B12: Aan essential vitamin for normal metabolism and nerve function. Deficiencies can cause serious and permanent loss of spinal cord function, brain and nerve tissue disorders, depression, heart attack, anemia, memory, loss, numbness, fatigue, dementia, and mobility and immune-system problems.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Essential for immunity and cardiovascular function. Deficiencies can lead to immune disorders, heart attack, stroke, and cancer.
Calcium: Essential for bone health, as well as normal heart and nerve function. Deficiencies can cause fatigue, osteoporosis, and heart rhythm disturbances.
Zinc: A trace element needed for normal immunity and cell function. Deficiencies can lead to immune disorders, as well as skin and neurological problems,
Please consult a medical professional regarding these and other preventable deficiencies if you or a loved one plan to go a vegetarian diet. Essential amino acids, vitamins, proteins, and trace elements are necessary for normal muscle building, protein, immune, heart, and brain health.

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Vegans need to be aware of potential nutritional deficiencies in their diets.
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Friday, 05 December 2014 03:43 PM
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