In previous articles I’ve alerted my meat-challenged readers (aka vegetarians) that they may be lacking in certain nutrients. After years of testing, some of the most common amino acid deficiencies I’ve seen are carnitine, carnosine, and taurine. People deficient in carnitine will have difficulty mobilizing fat to burn as energy. Taurine deficiencies can manifest in anxiety as well as poor muscle function. It is also very common to see zinc, iron and B12 to be low in vegetarians. Since zinc is involved in somewhere around 400 different enzymatic functions in the body, it’s extremely important to be replete with zinc.
A recent review in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry—and who doesn’t love to just peruse that journal?—reviewed the impact of vegetarianism and veganism on various markers. The review looked at more than 30 years worth of research on the topic. The researchers from China found that vegetarians and especially vegans to be low in B12 and omega-3 fatty acids which are associated with elevated homocysteine and low plasma HDL. The researchers stated that this could increase the vegetarians risk of blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
As I like to tell my students, a vegetarian diet is great as long as you add some meat to it.
J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Feb 9;59(3):777-84. Chemistry behind Vegetarianism. Li D.
Department of Food Science and Nutrition, Zhejiang University, 268 Kaixuan Road, Hangzhou, China 310029.