Raising cattle for meat and dairy consumes a massive amount of resources, which is one major reason why high-tech meat alternatives are currently all the rage. The United Nations says veganism is key to saving the world from climate change and hunger, but many still cling to the stereotype of vegans as skinny, undernourished hipsters nibbling on stalks of broccoli.
Including, apparently, the sausage-loving nation of Germany. A new paper from the German Nutrition Society insists “a vegan diet can't provide everything your body needs,” NPR reports. While the traditional German diet is heavy on meat, NPR notes that veganism has particularly taken hold in the hipster haven of Berlin, estimating that the city is home to some 80,000 vegans.
The report states “it is difficult or impossible to attain an adequate supply of some nutrients” while following a vegan diet. It specifically cites B12 — found in meat and eggs — as an essential ingredient that plant-based diets can lack, along with omega-3s (found in fatty fish) and a number of other nutrients including “calcium, iron, iodine, zinc and selenium.” The paper warns that children and adolescents and pregnant or breastfeeding women should not eat vegan, and recommends anyone following a vegan diet seek guidance from a nutritionist.
But with heart disease as the nation’s top cause of death and an estimated one-half of the German population now overweight, as well as a surge in diabetes cases, perhaps speaking out against plant-based diets isn’t the most sensible move for Germany’s most prominent nutrition group.
Of course, Germany isn’t the only country that’s expressed reservations about plant-based diets: Recently an Italian parliament member proposed new legislation that would make it a crime, complete with possible jail time, for parents to feed their kids a vegan diet, arguing that it can be detrimental to children’s health and development. Interestingly, Italy’s childhood obesity rates are now among the highest in the world thanks to the rise of Western-style diets and fast-food culture.