Vegan mothers’ breastmilk is not affected by meat-free diet, says study confirming it has essential nutrients

Author: Maria Chiorando

Read Time:   |  28th May 2023

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The breastmilk of vegan mothers contains concentrations of vitamin B2 and carnitine essential for the developing infant, says new research


New research has revealed that breastmilk of vegan mothers contains concentrations of vitamin B2 and carnitine essential for the developing infant.

A study carried out by Amsterdam UMC says concentrations of vitamin B2 and carnitine are no different in lactating mothers following a vegan diet compared to mothers with an omnivorous diet – despite these nutrients being found in highest concentrations in animal products.

A shortage of vitamin B2, which is involved in a number of biological processes, can lead to anaemia and neurological problems.

Meanwhile, deficiencies in carnitine, which is involved in energy metabolism, can cause low blood sugar and a potentially increased risk of heart and brain dysfunction.

The results of the study challenge the notion that vegan diets may be nutritionally incomplete, and also that the breastmilk of vegan mothers may increase the risk of babies developing vitamin B2 or carnitine deficiency.

Vegan breastmilk

According to lead researcher Dr Hannah Juncker: “The maternal diet greatly influences the nutritional composition of human milk, which is important for child development.”

She noted that the growing number of vegans worldwide has led to questions around the ‘nutritional adequacy of their milk’.

Dr Juncker added: “The results of our study suggest that vitamin B2 and carnitine concentrations in human milk are not influenced by consumption of a vegan diet.

“These results suggest that a vegan diet in lactating mothers is not a risk for the development of a vitamin B2 or carnitine deficiency in breastfed infants.

“This information is useful for breastfeeding mothers and also for donor human milk banks, which collect milk for provision to premature infants who do not receive sufficient mother’s own milk.”

Plant-based and wondering what to expecting when you’re expecting? Check out our guide to vegan pregnancy and parenting

Featured photo © staticnak1983 via Getty Images

Written by

Maria Chiorando

Maria is an editor and journalist. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, the Guardian, TechnoBuffalo, Plant Based News, and Kent on Sunday among other national and regional titles.

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