Vegan? This is how your IQ is affected according to research
It is good to eat less meat, but many do not know how it can affect the brain. Certain vital nutrients are found only in animal products, and those who do not get enough are at risk of impairing their intelligence.
We are encouraged to eat more and more vegetarian, preferably of all we should be vegan. For better or worse. Nature, climate, and health thank us - if we get it on the plate. Otherwise, health can actually take damage from eating vegan. Meat, fish, and other animal foods contain nutrients that are sometimes not found in vegetarian alternatives - or vegan alternatives are not absorbed as well by the body. One example is iron, where women usually have trouble getting enough before they start eating more vegan.
This article does not attempt to embarrass vegans or vegetarians, or to claim that living a healthy life without animal products is impossible. The article was written to show that veganism requires more of a person than regular eating, in the form of knowledge about the content of foods at a level other than fat/protein/carbohydrates. We hope this information can be useful!
More and more Swedes are choosing meat, and many are also choosing animal foods and products thoroughly. It can be for the sake of the animals, for the climate, or for the health. But the research on how we are affected by vegan food leaves some to be desired, even though it is hardly a new concept (in India, for example, they have lived without meat for thousands of years).
For example, there is research that indicates that vegans are at higher risk of stroke – while other studies say that vegans have healthier hearts.
And in the world, there is growing concern about the growing vegan trend. In Germany, authorities discourage children, pregnant women, breastfeeding, and teenagers from eating vegan diets. In Belgium, anyone who forces their child to eat vegan foods can be sentenced to prison.
The brain on vegan food
Some show that vegan and vegetarian food can be good for the heart and body, but how it affects the brain, we still know very little about. On the other hand, the research found that vegans are at risk of missing out on some topics that are important to our intelligence and brain health.
Some nutrients are not found in anything other than animal foods naturally, others may be in fruits/vegetables but not in the amount we need. For example, potatoes are the most vitamin B6-rich vegan food – but you need to eat 750 grams to get your daily ration.
However, it is often possible to extract the missing substances from algae and bacteria, among other things, and to make dietary supplements for those who want vegan alternatives.
Here are some topics vegans often lack, which can adversely affect the brain and intelligence:
The most significant deficiency of vegans is B12, which is found ONLY in meat and eggs. Severe deficiencies can cause brain damage in children and hinder their development. We have seen cases where a child could neither sit nor smile. Even where the child ended up in a coma due to the B12 deficiency. In Sweden, it was not long ago that we could read about an infant who almost starved to death after being fed with a poor vegan diet.
And in many studies, B12 deficiency has been linked directly to lower IQ, and in older people, it has been seen that lack of B12 can cause the brain to shrink! Lack of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia, which also causes symptoms such as poor memory and fatigue.
But it is also common to have low levels of iron in vegans. Although we primarily associate iron with oxygen-absorbing capacity in the blood, it also has an essential task in keeping the brain healthy. In a 2007 study, it was seen that young women who received iron supplements could show better cognitive abilities and faster perception.
And not only are vegans suffering from iron deficiency – it is actually the world’s most common nutritional deficiency, but among vegans, the figure is as much as 40 percent, which in itself gets less than the recommended daily dose.
D3 is another nutrient that is difficult to make as a vegan. In the summer, it forms in the skin when we are out in the sunlight, but in the winter, vegans are slipping after carnivores, studies have shown that the differences can be as significant as 40 percent.
Then we have to talk about amino acids! Taurine, you may have seen it on several energy drinks, and it is the amino acid we have most in the brain where it regulates, among other things, the number of neurons. Taurine is found mainly in meat and seafood, but to some extent also in dairy products. Therefore, experts recommend that vegans take taurine supplements.
A nutrient that hasn’t got much attention yet is choline, or a type of vitamin B. Choline deficiency has previously been linked to dementia.
Studies have shown that extra supplementation of choline improves memory and responsiveness. It also increases the performance of athletes. Choline is also used as a treatment for dementia because it is so crucial for brain functions. It is also necessary for the development of the fetal nervous system. Choline deficiency is also suspected to be linked to fatty liver.
Vegans are the group that gets the least choline of all.
Creatine is another topic that should be kept in mind. It is a common supplement in protein shakes and other supplements that should increase performance. This is because creatine’s primary task is to help cells absorb energy. But the substance also helps the brain, and in studies, it has been seen that an increased intake of creatine can improve recognition memory and reduce brain fatigue.
Unfortunately, plants and fungi do not contain creatine, but they are found mainly in animal products. In a test, vegetarians and omnivores were given creatine supplements to see if it could affect intelligence. After only five days, much had happened to the vegetarians, but almost nothing to the omnivores, which indicates that they do not have the same need for creatine supplementation.
BUT: Don’t start playing with creatine supplements on your own, there may be unwanted side effects. For example, the brain can begin to reduce its own production of creatine. For most of the creatine, the body produces itself, so vegans may not need to eat extra – maybe the brain only uses the extra creatine in an emergency or under stress.
The conclusion that many researchers draw is that it is possible to live a healthy life on a vegan diet – but it requires a lot of knowledge and accuracy that probably not everyone who has started eating vegan food in the last ten years has.
“Without a doubt, veganism can cause a deficiency in B12 and iron, and without a doubt, they can affect your intelligence,” says Nathan Cofnas, an Oxford University biologist to the BBC.