Recent news coverage ranging from BBC Radio 4 to Vogue has quoted Professor Ian Givens on the micronutrient deficiencies that can arise from vegetarian and vegan diets.
This coverage came as the result of a Science Media Centre topic event where a number of invited scientists each gave a briefing to journalists on the subject of the need for UK diets to reduce dependency on animal-derived protein foods and transition to alternative sources (primarily plant-based sources although fungi and insects were also discussed). A greater number of journalists (19) than average attended the event, with invited science attendees including The Food Standards Agency’s Chief Scientific Advisor. A full list of attendees can be found below.
In his briefing Ian made two key points. The first that we need to bear in mind that many animal-derived foods rich in protein are also rich in a range of micronutrients. The second point was that we already have good evidence from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) that many UK teenage girls have very suboptimal intakes of a range of micronutrients (e.g. iron, iodine, calcium) due in good part to reduced consumption of red meat and dairy, so we need to make sure this is accounted for in any transition away from animal protein foods. This created heightened interest from the media, including from many who were not present. The resulting stories focused on vegetarian and vegan diets, at the more extreme end of the transition away from reliance on animal protein.
Ian says: “Of course vegetarian and vegan diets do have risks: for example recent studies have shown a significant association between these diets and increased risk of bone weakness. Recognising and managing these risks is very important, especially to female adolescents from even a limited progression. Indeed the reason why their intakes of certain key micronutrients are very low is because they have already made a progression i.e., they have reduced red meat and milk consumption.”
A complete list of the coverage to date can be found below:
Tuesday 11th January
Daily Mail (in print)
Wednesday 12th January
BBC Radio 4’s PM Programme
Thursday 13th January
Friday 14th January
Monday 17th January
Invited science attendees
- Professor Robin May, Chief Scientific Advisor, Food Standards Agency and Professor of Infectious Disease, University of Birmingham
- Professor Guy Poppy, University of Southampton, Director of the UKRI Food Systems Programme and former FSA Chief Scientific Advisor
- Dr Pete Rowe, CEO Deep Branch Biotechnology
- Professor Pete Wilde, Quadram Institute group leader
- Professor Wendy Russell, The Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen
- Professor Ian Givens, Director, The Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH), University of Reading