Vegan and plant-based diets risk lowering the intake of a nutrient crucial for the health of the brain, it has been claimed.
Dietary choline is particularly important during fetal development and also influences liver function, but humans mainly take it in from beef, eggs, dairy, fish and chicken.
Smaller amounts can be found in nuts, beans and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, but the liver alone does not generate enough to meet the requirements of the human body.
Nutritionist Dr Emma Derbyshire, of Nutritional Insight, a consultancy specialising in nutrition and biomedical science, said the government had failed to recommend or monitor levels of the nutrient.
She made her claims in a British Medical Journal article.
“Given the important physiological roles of choline and authorisation of certain health claims, it is questionable why choline has been overlooked for so long in the UK,” she said.
“Choline is presently excluded from UK food composition databases, major dietary surveys, and dietary guidelines.”
Dr Derbyshire stressed that the importance of choline must not be “overlooked” by healthcare professionals and consumers alike, especially during pregnancy as it is vital for infant development.
She said “accelerated food trends” that have seen people move away from diets rich in animal products could further exacerbate the issue.
Vegan diets have become increasingly popular in the UK in recent years, prompting some of the most recognisable food brands in the country to adapt their menus.
Bakery chain Greggs is planning to release meat-free versions of all of its best-selling products following a successful launch for its vegan sausage roll.
According to The Vegan Society, the UK launched more vegan products that any other nation last year.