Dietary intake and biochemical, hematologic, and immune status of vegans compared with nonvegetarians1,2
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Dietary and nutritional status of individuals habitually consuming a vegan diet was evaluated by biochemical, hematologic, and immunologic measures in comparison with a nonvegetarian group. On the basis of 4-d dietary records, the intake of female and male vegans tended to be lower in fat, saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and cholesterol and higher in dietary fiber than that of vegetarians. With computed food and supplement intakes, vegan diets provided significantly higher amounts of ascorbate, folate, magnesium, copper, and manganese in both female and male participants. The body mass index (BMI; in kg/m2) of the vegans was significantly lower than that of the nonvegetarians and 9 of the 25 vegans had a BMI <19. Serum ferritin concentrations were significantly lower in vegan men but iron and zinc status did not differ between the sexes. Mean serum vitamin B-12 and methylmalonic acid concentrations did not differ; however, 10 of the 25 vegans showed a vitamin B-12 deficit manifested by macrocytosis, circulating vitamin B-12 concentrations <150 pmol/L, or serum methylmalonic acid >376 nmol/L. Vegans had significantly lower leukocyte, lymphocyte, and platelet counts and lower concentrations of complement factor 3 and blood urea nitrogen but higher serum albumin concentrations. Vegans did not differ from nonvegetarians in functional immunocompetence assessed as mitogen stimulation or natural killer cell cytotoxic activity.