Dr Emma Derbyshire, a member of the Meat Advisory Board, published a paper last week stating that only a small percentage of the general population are consuming sufficient levels of choline. Unfortunately, the media misrepresented the scientific evidence on the nutritional adequacy of plant diets and issued scaremongering headlines that caused unnecessary worry to some people.
Choline is present in plant foods so consuming a balanced wholefoods diet with foods that are high in choline such as cauliflower, broccoli, tofu and other soy products, peanuts, and wholegrains like quinoa can help ensure you meet your needs.
Tom Sanders, Professor of Diabetes and Nutritional Science at Kings College, London, has rejected the claim that plant diets are inadequate in choline:
“There is no justification for suggesting that a plant-based diet risks damaging brain development. My own research on vegans and those of others in Europe and the US finds that the growth and development of vegans and vegetarians is normal.
“Choline can be made in the body and it is also abundant in many plant foods including soybeans,” he said.
There is also some evidence that overconsumption of choline is a risk factor for some diseases.
Vegans avoid using and killing other animals unnecessarily. The evidence is that a wholefoods plant diet is nutritionally adequate for all stages of life and helps prevent many diseases and causes of premature mortality. It is possible to include plant foods high in choline to meet our daily needs. Research into this nutrient is quite new and given that levels of choline intake are low in the general population, further research is needed.
Given the very high contribution of animal agriculture to environmental destruction and the climate emergency, it is highly irresponsible for anyone to suggest that we need to increase our consumption of animal products when we can get all the nutrients we need from plant sources.
For more information on nutrition on a plant diet please refer to our Nutrition section.
Declan Meehan of East Coast radio interviewed Sandra Higgins, Director of Go Vegan World, for our perspective on the controversy. You can listen to the interview here.