The number of vegans has been growing rapidly over recent years and the concept of vegetarianism is not new dating back as early as 500 BC, first mentioned by Pythagoras.
In Great Britain, the number of vegans is estimated to have quadrupled between 2014 and 2019.
Novak Djokovic, Venus and Serena Williams, Lewis Hamilton, Mike Tyson, Martina Navratilova, David Haye are great examples that veganism offers one the potential to not only be healthy, but also for elite athletes to thrive.
Some key nutrients vegans should be aware of
Although there are health benefits to a vegan lifestyle, it is also important to recognise that, as with any diet, if not appropriately planned then it is easy to become nutritionally deficient as there are certain nutrients that are not available from plants.
Below are some of the 2 key nutrients that vegans need to be aware of to avoid deficiencies or imbalances.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient, which does not originate in plants, but from bacteria.
In fact, B12 supplements are (for the most part) also given to farm animals, meaning even those on non-vegan diets are supplementing, but indirectly.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency may include:
- A pale yellow tinge to your skin
- A sore and red tongue (glossitis)
- Mouth ulcers
- Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
- Disturbed vision
- Unexplained sadness
- A decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement
Due to B12 not being readily present in a vegan diet it’s recommended to supplement this, especially for strict vegans.
Two tablets daily of our Saffrosun Calm offers 100% of the Nutritional Reference Value (NRV).
Vitamin D is the “sunshine vitamin”, and although it is possible to obtain this through certain plant foods such as mushrooms, in general it is not broadly consumed on a vegan diet.
In fact, the NHS advises that "everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter” [Source ].
Symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency may include:
- Not sleeping well
- Bone pain or achiness
- Feelings of sadness
- Hair loss
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Getting sick more easily
Again, it is good practice to use a supplement to ensure you are getting the recommend intake of Vitamin D, particularly in colder seasons with having less sun exposure. One capsule of our Pure Organic Vitamin D offers 200% of the NRV, and one capsule of our Vitamin D3 contains 100% NRV.
Probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria, and studies suggest that taking probiotics are linked to a range of health benefits. These include benefits for gut function, immune function, respiratory tract infections, and duration of illness.
Although vegans generally consume a diet rich in fibre, which is a key gut nutrient and it is possible to acquire probiotics from plant-based sources such as fermented foods (e.g. sourdough bread and tempeh), vegans don’t consume the most common probiotic rich foods such as yogurt and kefir.
Our Gut Love supplement contains 21 probiotics and prebiotics, and 19 billion good bacteria to support overall gut health including one probiotic which originates from soil.
The Naked Pharmacy Supplements
All of The Naked Pharmacy’s own brand of supplements are entirely vegan and contain natural ingredients, meaning higher absorption and bioavailability than synthetic supplements.
Recent articles in the press discuss the potential of Vitamin D supplementation to reduce the risks of Covid-19.
This article will provide key research information on the benefits of Vitamin D for the immune system plus pharmacist advice on which indication has sufficient clinical research to support its use.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because it is produced naturally by the action of sunlight on the skin.
NHS England recommends a daily supplementation of 10 mcg (micrograms) from oily fish such as salmon and sardines or vegetarian/vegan friendly sources. The latter are either synthetic (man-made vitamin D3) or from mushrooms (vitamin D2). One natural vitamin D3 version exists which is derived from marine algae. Vitamin D3 is better absorbed by the body compared to vitamin D2.
Why is Vitamin D important?
A study, published in the BMJ in 2017 which reviewed data from 25 trials, showed the vitamin can help prevent acute respiratory infections, particularly in those patients with a pre-existing vitamin D deficiency.
Professor Martineau, who was the lead author of the review, stated ‘When vitamin D is made in the skin, it gets converted in the liver to a form that circulates around the body. This creates a natural antibiotic-like substance in the lining of the airway that can bash viruses and bacteria, killing them’.
‘It is a generic effect: we don’t know yet whether that would work against Covid-19.’
Research from the University of Birmingham carried out in 2018 demonstrated that vitamin D deficiency trebles the length of hospital stay.
Can Vitamin D be used to treat Covid-19?
Previous studies and data reviews have shown that Vitamin D can help prevent and treat respiratory infections such as community acquired pneumonia.
However, despite the recently quoted Irish study suggesting that high dose vitamin D could be used as part of the Covid-19 treatment program there is still insufficient evidence for its role in reducing the risk of the coronavirus.
Who is susceptible to Vitamin D deficiency?
It is thought that around 1 in 5 adults and children in the UK are deficient in Vitamin D. The recent coronavirus lockdown, on top of (sensible) use of sunscreens may have contributed to decreased levels of vitamin D in the blood.
Research has shown that levels of deficiency are higher than expected in the general population. Research from The University of Surrey discovered a high number of students had very low levels vitamin D at the end of the summer term when levels were expected to peak.
What can I do to increase my levels?
Daily exercise outdoors will help boost levels.
10 minutes exposure for pale skin on the arms and face, darker skin may need around 25 minutes exposure to stimulate Vitamin D production.
Ethnic groups with dark skin need more daily sunlight exposure and should also take a year-round supplement.
Which are the effective Vitamin D supplements?
Vitamin D supplements are widely available.
The most easily absorbed version is called D3 but these supplements are commonly made from synthetic or animal sources.
One vegan friendly, marine algae sourced D3 is available and this is used in The Naked Pharmacy Saffrosun supplements. There are also mushroom derived D2 alternatives.
The recommended dose is 10mcg (or 400iu) daily and should be taken for several months to build up healthy vitamin D levels.