Vegan diet - a question of values

More and more people in Germany are giving up food of animal origin. What motivates them to do so? And what impact does this have on their health? This is the main topic in the latest issue of the science magazine BfR2GO. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) has examined both attitudes and motivations, and has investigated associations between a vegan diet and nutrient supply. "The main motivation for veganism is ethics. For many vegans, it is about avoiding animal suffering; this is closely followed by health and ecological reasons, such as environmental protection and sustainability," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. With regard to nutrient supply in adults it appears that: "Vitamin B12 is well supplemented, iodine is the problem child." Other topics in the new issue: an interview with risk researcher Gerd Gigerenzer on how to deal with uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic, challenges regarding the use of disinfectants in food production, and current research projects to reduce animal experiments.

BfR2GO 2/2020:

We've all experienced them - discussions about the tofu sausage on the barbecue! Our diet provides material for passionate controversies. Readers of the new issue of BfR2GO can gather scientific facts on veganism for their next debate. The BfR has researched the topic from different perspectives in several studies. Although ethical considerations clearly take priority, the perceived health benefit is also a deciding factor for around a quarter of vegans. However, there is a difference of opinion when it comes to the health aspects of a vegan diet. So far, only a few studies have taken an in-depth look at the health risks and benefits of a vegan diet. The results of the BfR study with 36 vegans and 36 people eating a mixed-food diet provide initial indications of the nutrient supply in vegan adults. They show a mixed picture. The study results were particularly noteworthy with regard to the trace element iodine. The majority of the participants had a deficiency. However, the deficiency was much more pronounced among vegans. Conversely, they were generally adequately supplied with vitamin B12 despite a very low intake of the vitamin through food. The food supplements that the test subjects reported taking are probably the reason for this. There is still a huge need for research as to what influence a vegan diet has on nutrient supply. This not only applies to adults. Further research should be done also on vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, babies, children and young people.

Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is another topic in the seventh issue of BfR2GO. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the BfR has been investigating how people live with the risk of "corona" using the BfR-Corona-Monitor. Among other things, it shows that the coronavirus has now become part of everyday life and that the usual protective measures have become routine for many people. In an interview, prominent Berlin psychologist and risk researcher Gerd Gigerenzer explains why the initial coronavirus predictions were wrong and how we can deal with uncertainty rationally.

Also in the new BfR2GO: how disinfectants promote antibiotic resistance, what consumers should look out for when it comes to alternatives to plastic straws, how plant protection product residues in fruit and vegetables are approved and controlled, and an overview of current research projects to reduce animal experiments.

Compact and packed to the brim with knowledge, the BfR2GO science magazine provides up-to-date and well-founded information about research and the assessment of this research in consumer health protection and about the protection of laboratory animals. Each issue of BfR2GO presents a main topic focusing on one of the current fields of work of the BfR. Moreover, there are reports, interviews and information from all other BfR working areas.

The science magazine BfR2GO is published twice a year in German and English. It is published on the BfR website and can be downloaded free of charge or ordered directly. In addition, those interested can register for a free subscription.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the German federal government and German federal states ("Laender") on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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