ScienceDaily (Mar. 2, 2009) -- Well-planned vegetarian and vegan diets are healthful choices for pregnant women and their children, and vitamin B12 needs can be easily met with fortified foods or any common multivitamin, say doctors and dietitians with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). PCRM nutrition experts are available for comment in response to a new Pediatrics study showing that low levels of vitamin B12 may increase the risk for neural tube defects.
The Pediatrics study is based on analysis of stored blood samples originally collected during pregnancy from three groups of Irish women between 1983 and 1990. It's not clear if any of the women were vegan, but the study clearly states that this population was deliberately chosen because vitamin supplementation and food fortification were rare at that time. The women lived in a region of traditionally high neural tube defects prevalence, suggesting a moderately high genetic predisposition.
Experts agree that pregnant women can thrive on vegan diets. The American Dietetic Association, the nation's largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, states that "well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence." Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol and higher levels of fiber, folate, and cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytochemicals.