Published on August 23, 2021
Studies show several nutrient deficiencies are common for vegans, even among those taking supplements
According to a 2016 US National Poll (the Harris Poll), approximately eight million adults in the United States follow a vegetarian diet, with about half consisting of vegans. Within the GrassrootsHealth cohort, based on an analysis done in 2019, approximately 1% of participants followed a vegetarian diet with an additional 2% following a vegan diet.
Studies have shown several benefits to these types of diets, including a decreased risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and even a decreased risk of severe COVID-19, however, these diets are known to lack in specific nutrients, bringing with them added health risks due to nutrient deficiencies.
Which Nutrient Deficiencies are Vegans and Vegetarians at Higher Risk For?
Vegans are at risk of deficiency in vitamins B12, B2 (riboflavin), and vitamin D, protein, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and the trace elements iron, iodine, zinc and selenium. When analyzing nutrient status among vegans, a study by Elorinne et al. found that vegans had significantly lower levels of several nutrient and health markers, including vitamin D, iodine, selenium, EPA and DHA.
When comparing overall levels between 21 vegans and 18 non-vegetarians, vegans had
- 35% lower levels of vitamin B12 (p=0.002)
- 40% lower levels of total vitamin D (p<0.001)
- 58% lower levels of beta carotene (p=0.001)
- 21% lower levels of vitamin E (p=0.003)
- 64% lower levels of ferritin (p=0.011)
- 73% lower levels of EPA (p<0.001)
- 62% lower levels of DHA (p<0.001)
Vitamin D Deficiency is of Particular Concern
The study by Elorinne et al. also found that
- 77% of vegans took a vitamin D supplement, compared to 78% of non-vegetarians
- Only 10% of vegans had a vitamin D level greater than 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/L) compared to 78% of non-vegetarians
- 24% of vegans had vitamin D levels at or below 20 ng/ml (50 nmol/L) compared to only 6% of non-vegetarians
Positive Findings for Vegans
In this study, beyond the nutritional deficits, compared to non-vegetarians, vegans had 20% lower serum total cholesterol, 25% lower serum LDL cholesterol, and higher concentrations of certain polyphenols overall.
Quality Foods Are Essential for Healthy Vegans and Vegetarians
Wholesome foods, such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables, play an important role in any diet, but especially a vegan or vegetarian diet. These foods are not only great sources of macro-nutrients, such as amino acids, proteins and fiber, but are also full of vitamins and minerals. Getting as many of these nutrients from the diet can help anyone, but especially vegans and vegetarians, rely less on supplements for their daily intakes. Below is a table of foods that tend to be high in some of the vitamins and minerals that are consider most critical for vegans. Keep in mind, vitamin D can also come from safe sunshine and indoor UVB.
As the authors state, “nutritional guidance is important to vegans and that vegan diets should be regularly supplemented with key nutrients. More emphasis should be placed on vitamin D…”
While a vegan diet may have several health benefits, vegans should be regularly supplemented with key nutrients, especially vitamin B 12, vitamin D and omega-3s DHA and EPA, in order to avoid negative health effects from nutrient deficiencies. Testing levels of vitamin D and other nutrients should be done regularly to help ensure deficiency is avoided.
Measure Your Level of Vitamin D, DHA and EPA, and Other Important Nutrients
Having and maintaining healthy vitamin D levels and other nutrient levels can help improve your health now and for your future. Choose which to measure, such as your vitamin D, omega-3s, and essential minerals including magnesium and zinc, by creating your custom home test kit today. Take steps to improve the status of each of these measurements to benefit your overall health. You can also track your own intakes, symptoms and results to see what works best for YOU.
Enroll and test your levels today, learn what steps to take to improve your status of vitamin D (see below) and other nutrients and blood markers, and take action! By enrolling in the GrassrootsHealth projects, you are not only contributing valuable information to everyone, you are also gaining knowledge about how you could improve your own health through measuring and tracking your nutrient status, and educating yourself on how to improve it.
Help everyone Move Research into Practice with vitamin D and other nutrients! As a special birthday gift to everyone, in honor of the science, we have created a special scholarship fund for anyone to donate to that will go towards helping others participate. Your donation will allow anyone to get help with funding their participation when they need it.
Text-to-give: Text Daction to 44321 to add to our Scholarship Fund.
What Does it Take YOU to Get Your D to 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)?
Did you know your health could be greatly affected by making sure you have a vitamin D level of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L)? Help us help you.
STEP 1 - Do you know what your vitamin D level is? If not, be sure to test today to find out.
STEP 2 – Determine your target level. Are you at your target level? Experts recommend a level of at least 40-60 ng/ml (100-150 nmol/L).
STEP 3 – Need to boost your level? Use the D*calculator to see how much vitamin D it may take to reach your target. Opt for the Loading Dose for a quicker boost.
STEP 4 – Optimize how your body absorbs and utilizes vitamin D with co-nutrients and these simple steps.
STEP 5 – Re-Test! This is an important step to make sure you have reached your target level, and to ensure you are not taking too much! Re-testing after 3-4 months is recommended.
STEP 6 – Adjust, Repeat…
Give your immune system the nutrients it needs to support a healthy you and protect yourself from unnecessary diseases, especially COVID-19.
The first Randomized Controlled Trial on vitamin D and COVID-19 has shown a 96% lower risk of ICU admission for those receiving vitamin D (as 25(OH)D to quickly boost vitamin D blood levels) along with the standard treatment, compared to those receiving standard treatment alone.
These results support many previous observational studies showing a relationship between vitamin D levels and intake and COVID-19 severity.
GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute has launched the new Immune Boost project with the use of our myData-myAnswers nutrient health system that nearly 15,000 people are already using for their health. Specific markers that influence immune health are suggested for testing as part of this project including:
- Vitamin D
- Omega-3 Index
- Essential elements magnesium, selenium, and zinc
Our goal is to demonstrate how one can use the Nutrient Research Model established by Dr. Robert Heaney to show the effect of vitamin D serum levels of at least 40 ng/ml (100 nmol/L) on risk reduction for all ethnicities in the population. Status and intake of other nutrients will also be analyzed for any type of relationship to immune status and symptom severity. Join the project today!
Please let us know if you're interested in helping sponsor this project.
Through GrassrootsHealth Nutrient Research Institute, you can also test your essential elements magnesium, copper, zinc and selenium, toxins such as lead, mercury and cadmium, as well as your omega-3 levels, inflammation levels and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) level. Find out your levels today! Log on to the test selection page (click the link below) to get your tests and see for yourself if your levels can be improved.
Make sure you track your results before and after, about every 6 months!
How can I track my nutrient intake and levels over time?
To help you track your supplement use and nutrient levels, GrassrootsHealth has created the Personal Health Nutrient Decision System called
For each specific supplement, you can track what days you take it, how much, and many other details. This will help you know your true supplemental intake and what patterns of use work for you to reach and maintain optimum nutrient levels. Check it out today!