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Veröffentlichungen • Vegetarian Raw Food Dietary Regimens: Health Habits and Nutrient Intake

Carola B. Strassner, Sabine Doerries, Karunee Kwanbunjan, Claus Leitzmann
Presented as Poster at the Third Internatiobnal Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition, Loma Linda,
California USA, March 24-26 1997

Abstract:

The Raw Food Diet (RFD) is one of a number of alternative dietary regimens currently enjoying popularity. Though known under the above name, the movement consists of a wide variety of different RFD, most of which are vegetarian regimens. Common to all is the high proportion of raw food in the diet: extreme forms consist of a nutrition comprised solely of raw foods. The Giessen Raw Food Study aimed to examine the various RFD forms in Germany and to determine the health behavior and nutritive status of raw food eaters.

Health habits were investigated by means of a detailed questionnaire. Data from this nationwide survey indicate that a quarter to a third of the participants are underweight according to their BMI. Extreme RFD are more often practiced by younger participants and by males. Most are highly content with their diet and almost 98% intend to follow their RFD as a long-term regimen. About half the participants gave an own disease as the reason for changing to a RFD. Women who adhere to the stricter forms stated that their menstruation became infrequent or stopped altogether.

Food consumption and nutrient intake were calculated from a 7-day estimated food record. For most participants the consumption of raw food lay above 90%. The diet consists primarily of fruit and vegetables. The intake of nutrients that are usually provided by foods of animal origin is insufficient. These include Vitamins B12 and D, zinc and calcium. On the other hand, the intake of certain protective nutrients, such as Vitamin C and other antioxidants, lie above the national average.

The authors are grateful to the Stoll Foundation, Germany, for research funding.

Introduction:

The Raw Food Diet (RFD), presently stirring great interest, belongs in the category of alternative dietary regimens along with veganism, macrobiotics, etc. This is not a homogenous phenomenon as there are a wide variety of RFDs, some of which include animal products. All have in common that they strive for a higher proportion of raw food; moderate forms recommend a proportion of about 70 weight% raw food while extreme forms recommend 100 weight% raw food.

Objective:

The Giessen Raw Food Study has as its goal the examination of the various forms within the raw food movement in Germany to determine the health behaviour and nutritive status of raw food eaters.

Methodology:

Calls for project participation were placed in 9 different magazines nationwide. Subjects were chosen from respondents by a short pre-questionnaire. In the first study phase a detailed questionnaire was sent to 850 women and men. Criteria for selection for further study participation were a minimum of 70 weight% raw food in the diet (according to a semi-quantitative food frequency list) and at least 4 months continuous RFD. The lower age limit was 16 years; there was no upper age limit. In the second study phase food consumption and nutrient intake were calculated from a 7-day estimated food record. This food record was validated in a separate study. Criteria for this phase were a minimum of 70 weight% raw food in the diet and at least 14 months continuous RFD. The age of the participants ranged from 25-64 years.

Results and Discussion (Phase I):

The data for phase I present 572 participants (60% women : 40% men) with an average age of 44 years (SD ± 14,1) and an average of 2,3 years (SD ± 6,1; min. 4 months) spent adhering to the RFD. According to their BMI 25% of the women and 30% of the men were underweight, 70% of the women and 68% of the men were classified normal while 5% of the women and 2% of the men were overweight. This stands in stark contrast to the general situation in Germany where less than 6% of the population is underweight and more than 35% is overweight. For the majority of the participants health reasons were most important for changing to a RFD; 55% gave an own disease as the reason for changing to the RFD. Most were highly content with their diet and almost 98% intend to follow it as a long-term regimen. The extreme forms were followed more often by younger participants and by males. Women adhering to the stricter forms stated that their menstruation became infrequent or stopped altogether. This latter group is further typified by younger participants and those with a lower BMI.

Results and Discussion (Phase II):

For 65% of the women and 82% of the men in phase II raw food made up 90% or more of the foodstuffs consumed. Table 1 and 2 show that the diet consists primarily of raw fruits and raw vegetables; it is augmented with nuts and seeds and for those following an (ovo-)lacto-vegetarian or omnivore form of the RFD, by small amounts of the respective foodstuffs. Where milk and milk products, meat and meat products, fish and sea foods and/or eggs are consumed, they are mainly in the raw form. Soya products do not feature prominently in the RFD as is often the case in alternative or vegetarian diets. The recommendation of the German Society of Nutrition (DGE) to drink 1-2 l/d is not reached by all participants. The average consumption of 957 ml/d lies under the lower limit, though it is just reached on average by the male participants. Water accounts for 71% of liquids consumed by the whole group (for women: 67%; for men: 75%).

Table 1: Foods in foodstuff groups consumed by the participants following the RFD

Foodstuffs*

average (g/d)

women (g/d)

men (g/d)

liquids

957

918

1002

solids

2098

616

749

plant foods

2051

2085

2112

animal products

55

51

59

raw foods

1976

1963

1990

cooked foods

121

121

121

vegetables

489

489

490

- of this raw

453

452

455

fruit

1423

1405

1444

- of this raw

1336

1306

1369

- of this dried

88

99

75

*this is not a comprehensive list

 

Table 2: Foods in foodstuff groups consumed by the participants following the RFD

Foodstuffs*

average (g/d)

women (g/d)

men (g/d)

nuts

28,2

30,0

26,0

seeds

19,8

22,3

16,9

milk and milk products

27,9

21,6

35,1

meat, fish, eggs & prod.

24,0

27,0

20,6

- of this raw

20,3

23,2

17,1

soya products

3,5

4,9

1,9

bread, pastry products

19,1

19,3

19,0

cereal, cereal products

28,8

30,1

27,4

fats and oils

7,6

8,2

6,9

*this is not a comprehensive list

 

Result and Discussion (Phase II) cont.

The sources of almost all nutrients for persons following the RFD are fruit and vegetables. Since cereal products and animal products are either not consumed or eaten only in small amounts, the intake of nutrients where the latter are usually the primary source, is insufficient. Such nutrients are, e.g., the vitamins D, B2, B12 and niacin and the minerals zinc and calcium (Table 3). A further consequence is the low average protein intake. Coupled with a low nutrient energy intake, the protein consumed may be being used as a supplementary energy source by the body, thus reducing the available external protein even more. As might be expected, the intake of antioxidant vitamins A, E and C is remarkably high (Table 4). It remains to be investigated to which degree this intake from raw foods is available to the participants. Further favourable aspects of the RFD are the high dietary fibre intake and the low cholesterol intake. However, looking at the nutrient intake as a whole, the low intakes of certain essential nutrients coupled with the known physiological consequences cannot be outweighed by the positive aspects and should be taken seriously.

Table 3: Marginal or critical nutrient intake (median, 5th-95th percentile) of women (vegans excluded) compared to the recommendations of the German Society of Nutrition (DGE)

Nutrient RFD DGE Nutrient DGE RFD
Dietary energy
(kcal/d)
1760
(961-3133)
1900 Vitamin B2
(mg/d)
1,39 1,50
(0,85-2,59)
Carbohydrate
(g/d)
237
(121-423)
  Vitamin B12
(m g/d)
0,37 3,00
(0,00-11,30)
Fat
(g/d)
57,6 (23,4-111,3)   Niacin
(mg/d)
13,2 15,0
(8,03-26,58)
Protein
(g/d)
38,5
(23,4-80,8)
48,0 Calcium
(mg/d)
686 850
(443-1301)
Vitamin D
(m g/d)
0,77
(0,01-7,39)
5,00 Zinc
(mg/d)
8,8 12,0
(5,1-19,5)

 

Table 4: Sufficient or adequate nutrient intake (median, 5th-95th percentile) of women (vegans excluded) compared to the recommendations of the German Society of Nutrition (DGE)

Nutrient RFD DGE Nutrient RFD DGE
Vitamin A
(mg/d)
2,16
(0,54-5,69)
0,80 Folic acid
(m g/d)
449
(265-890)
300
Vitamin E
(mg/d)
18,1
(9,5-31,9)
12,0 Magnesium
(mg/d)
554
(350-931)
300
Vitamin B1
(mg/d)
1,60
(0,81-3,37)
1,10 Iron*
(mg/d)
17,9
(11,43-30,62)
12,5
Vitamin B6
(mg/d)
2,69
(1,55-5,24)
1,60 Dietary fibre
(g/d)
53,6
(32,0-89,1)
³ 30
Vitamin C
(mg/d)
440
(191-845)
75 Cholesterol
(mg/d)
47
(2-412)

£ 300

*mainly from plant foods

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