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How a vegan diet could affect your intelligence

Veganism

Veganism is one of the fastest-growing millennial trends. In the United States, it grew by 600% between 2014 and 2017.

Recent concern about the nutritional gaps in plant-based diets has led to warnings, such as restricted brain development and irreversible damage to a person's nervous system.

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How a vegan diet could affect your intelligence

How a vegan diet could affect your intelligence

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200127-how-a-vegan-diet-could-affect-your-intelligence

bbc.com

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Key Ideas

Veganism

Veganism is one of the fastest-growing millennial trends. In the United States, it grew by 600% between 2014 and 2017.

Recent concern about the nutritional gaps in plant-based diets has led to warnings, such as restricted brain development and irreversible damage to a person's nervous system.

Testing the impact of the vegan diet

One study supplemented Kenyan schoolchildren with three different types of soup (meat, milk and oil) as a snack over seven school terms. 

The children who ate the soup containing meat each day had a significant edge: they outperformed all the other children on a test for non-verbal reasoning. The children who received meat soup or soup with added oil did the best on arithmetic ability.

Important brain nutrients

Several essential nutrients are not available from plants or fungi. Creatine, carnosine, taurine, EPA and DHA omega-3, haem iron and vitamins B12 and D3 generally only occur naturally in foods from animal products.

The nutrients found in vegan foods are minimal. To get the minimum amount of vitamin B6 each day from the richest plant sources, you'd have to eat about five cups worth of potatoes.

The Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products like eggs and meat.

Low B12 is widespread in vegans. There are some cases of children whose brains failed to develop because of their vegan parents.

Later in life, the IQ is directly correlated with the amount of B12 in a person's blood. the brains of those with lower B12 is six times more likely to be shrinking.

Iron deficiency

Iron plays a prominent role in brain development and is essential throughout our lives. One study found that giving women iron supplements led to intellectual gains. In those whose blood iron levels improved, their cognitive performance increased between five- and seven-fold.

Those adopting a vegan diet are particularly prone to iron deficiency. The form most readily absorbed by the body is only found in animal proteins.

Supplements

Some of the essential nutrients can be acquired from supplements. However, nutrients such as taurine are easily overlooked. Others are so obscure that vegans are unlikely to have even heard of them.

  • There are small amounts of taurine in some dairy products, but the primary dietary sources are meat and seafood. Vegetables do not contain taurine.
  • Choline is found in eggs, beef and seafood. People who consume eggs tend to have almost double the choline levels and enjoy a lasting cognitive edge.
  • Creatine supplies our cells with energy. Vegans and vegetarians have deficient levels in their bodies.

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Plant-based protein sources are not the same as animal protein sources. Proteins are made up of amino acids which are the building blocks of every cell and hormone in our body. Meat protein contains all nine essential amino acids, whereas plant-based protein usually lacks at least one of the nine essential amino acids our body needs.

Unripe jackfruit makes a convincing choice for pulled pork alternatives, curries and burgers. But it is almost valueless if you needed protein since jackfruit consists of carbohydrates. Vegan burgers are made up of beans, but this is not a complete protein source.

Iron content

One study found that 25% of vegans (mainly women) had very low blood iron levels, compared to 0% of omnivores.

Plants like whole grains, legumes and spinach are high in iron but is not always the best type. Animal sources contain haem iron. Non-haem iron, found in plants, is not as well absorbed by the body.

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Protein-rich foods from animals
  • They may have more saturated fatty acids (beef and dairy especially)
  • They may have more omega-3 fatty acids (fish especially)
  • They don’t contain any fiber or carbohydrates.
  • They tend to be very high in protein.

If you need a lot of protein in your diet, meat is a great way to satisfy that need.

“Plant protein”

Plant-based protein sources don't have as much protein. You can get enough protein through a plant-based diet, as long as it is well balanced. Plant-based protein sources:

  • They often contain fiber (especially legumes and whole grains).
  • If they contain fat, they are often rich in “good” fats (for example, the omega-3’s in nuts).
  • They contain plenty of starch as well, so it’s impossible to follow a low-carb diet if that’s a priority for you.

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Best foods don’t have labels
Best foods don’t have labels
Because they are just one ingredient: avocado, lentils, blueberries, broccoli, almonds, etc.
There is no "best diet"

The “best” diet is a theme: an emphasis on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and plain water for thirst. 

That can be with or without seafood; with or without dairy; with or without eggs; with or without some meat; high or low in total fat.

The "Age" of vegetables
The best vegetables are likely to be fresh and locally sourced, but flash frozen is nearly as good (as freezing delays aging). Those “fresh” vegetables that spend a long time in storage or transit are probably the least nutritious.

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