Vegan diet could make it tougher for women to fall pregnant if it depletes nutrients, expert warns

Vegan diet may make it more difficult for women to get pregnant, fertility expert warns

  • Vegans are at risk of becoming low in zinc, iron and vitamin B12, all found in meat
  • Another issue is a lack of Omega 3 and iodine, which both come from eating fish
  • Biologist said those lacking such nutrients should eat some meat and fish again

A vegan diet may make it more difficult for women to become pregnant, a fertility expert has warned.

Around 3 per cent of people in the UK do not eat any food derived from animals, according to polling by YouGov.

But reproductive biologist Grace Dugdale cautions that although a diet high in fruit, vegetables and pulses is healthy, fashionable veganism could cause problems for women trying to conceive.

Where they are depleted in important nutrients, she advises that it could be beneficial to start eating a small amount of meat and fish again.

Vegans are at risk of becoming low in zinc, iron and vitamin B12 as they do not eat meat.

Another issue is a lack of Omega 3, which comes from oily fish, and iodine, which is found in dairy and white fish.

Reproductive biologist Grace Dugdale cautions that although a diet high in fruit, vegetables and pulses is healthy, fashionable veganism could cause problems for women trying to conceive.  (Stock image)

Reproductive biologist Grace Dugdale cautions that although a diet high in fruit, vegetables and pulses is healthy, fashionable veganism could cause problems for women trying to conceive. (Stock image)

Miss Dugdale said: ‘If vegans and vegetarians have not been taking the proper supplements, they may have catch-up work to do rebuilding their body’s stores of these nutrients.’

The biologist, who advises infertile couples on nutrition, was addressing the Fertility Show which was held in London at the weekend.

Afterwards she said: ‘I completely understand the ethical and environmental reasons why people are vegan and people must do what they feel is right for them.

‘But I sometimes tell women trying to conceive who have depleted levels of these nutrients that they would benefit from starting to eat a small amount of meat and fish.

‘Testing levels of vitamins and minerals tells us if an individual’s dietary pattern is meeting the nutritional demands of their body, and vegan patients often have low levels of key nutrients needed for the development of the baby.

‘Eggs and dairy contain important nutrients needed for fertility and pregnancy.’

Plant-based milks do not always contain iodine, as cow’s milk does, and leafy green vegetables contain iron, but it is not as easy to absorb as the iron in meat.

Zinc, found in meat, has been found to increase men’s sperm count and swimming ability, as has Omega 3.

Rehan Salim, consultant in gynaecology and reproductive medicine at Imperial College Healthcare, told women wanting to freeze their eggs that they 'need protein', advising them to eat meat as well as lots of vegetables.  (stock image)

Rehan Salim, consultant in gynaecology and reproductive medicine at Imperial College Healthcare, told women wanting to freeze their eggs that they ‘need protein’, advising them to eat meat as well as lots of vegetables. (stock image)

Rehan Salim, consultant in gynaecology and reproductive medicine at Imperial College Healthcare, also spoke at the show, which is still selling tickets to watch the expert talks online.

He told women wanting to freeze their eggs that they ‘need protein’, advising them to eat meat and lots of vegetables.

Miss Dugdale added men also need all the right nutrients to produce good-quality sperm.

She has written The Fertility Book, a guide to achieving a healthy pregnancy, with Professor Adam Balen.

WHAT SHOULD A BALANCED DIET LOOK LIKE?

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

Meals should be based on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain, according to the NHS

• Eat at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. All fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetables count

• Base meals on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates, ideally wholegrain

• 30 grams of fiber a day: This is the same as eating all of the following: 5 portions of fruit and vegetables, 2 whole-wheat cereal biscuits, 2 thick slices of wholemeal bread and large baked potato with the skin on

• Have some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks) choosing lower fat and lower sugar options

• Eat some beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other proteins (including 2 portions of fish every week, one of which should be oily)

• Choose unsaturated oils and spreads and consuming in small amounts

• Drink 6-8 cups / glasses of water a day

• Adults should have less than 6g of salt and 20g of saturated fat for women or 30g for men a day

Source: NHS Eatwell Guide

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