Many turn to the vegan diet as a healthy alternative to the sugar- and meat-laden American diet, but a new paper suggests that this strict plant-based diet may actually prevent vegans from obtaining many important nutrients.

In the new paper, the German Nutrition Society says a vegan diet can't provide all the vitamins and nutrients the body needs to function correctly, with B-12, which is found in eggs and meat, and omega-3s, found in fatty fish, being some of the most important deficits.

"With a pure plant-based diet, it is difficult or impossible to attain an adequate supply of some nutrients," reads the study, advising that vegans regularly see a doctor and seek advice from a dietician in order to ensure the diet does not leave them lacking in vital nutrients.

Although these nutrients may be difficult to obtain for those who do not eat any animal products, it's not exactly impossible. For example, B-12, which is only found in animals and plays an important role in blood cell formation and brain function, is often added to non-animal based foods, such as fortified cereals. Vegans can also take vitamin supplements to make up for those which they cannot obtain through their diet naturally. In addition, other important animal-based nutrients can be found in some plant products, such as Omega-3s, also occurring in flax seeds, NPR reported.

"With a little planning and knowledge, rest assured, you can get everything you need from a vegan diet for great health ... at any age," Jimmy Pierson, a spokesperson for the Vegan Society, based in England, told NPR.

Unfortunately, for those who do follow strict vegan diets, poor planning can have serious consequences. For example, earlier this year, a baby boy in Italy was rushed to the hospital for extreme malnutrition after a strict vegan diet left him with dangerously low calcium levels and heart irregularities. Although the child was a year old, he only weighed as much as a three-month old and had the minimum levels of calcium needed to survive, The Local reported.

Source: Ritcher M, Boeing H, D Grünewald-Funk, et al. Vegan Diet Position of the German Nutrition Society (DGE). 2016

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