The recommendation that people move to plant-based diets carries the risk of worsening a brain health nutrient deficiency due to low dietary levels of choline, warns a leading nutritionist. This has been challenged by other experts.

The concern has been raised by Dr Emma Derbyshire, of Nutritional Insight, a consultancy specializing in nutrition and biomedical science, who has written a paper published in the British Medical Journal. Her research focuses on the British population.

Dr. Derbyshire is concerned about choline levels. Choline is a water-soluble vitamin-like essential nutrient, important for brain health, particularly during fetal development. The nutrient also influences liver function, and shortfalls can be connected to irregularities in blood fat metabolism plus excess free radical cellular damage, according to Dr Derbyshire. She sets out that a diet that includes beef, eggs, dairy products, fish, and chicken provides sufficient choline levels, although choline is also found in nuts, beans, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli.

Dr. Derbyshire states: “If choline is not obtained in the levels needed from dietary sources per se then supplementation strategies will be required, especially in relation to key stages of the life cycle, such as pregnancy, when choline intakes are critical to infant development.”

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