Animal source foods

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Various raw meats

Animal source foods (ASF) include many food item that comes from an animal source such as meat, milk, eggs, cheese and yogurt. Many individuals do not consume ASF or consume little ASF by either personal choice or necessity as ASF may not be accessible or available to these people.[1]

Nutrition of animal source foods[edit]

Dunlop cheese from Ayrshire, Scotland.

Aside from preformed vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, all vitamins found in animal source foods may also be found in plant-derived foods. Examples are tofu to replace meat (both contain protein in sufficient amounts), and certain seaweeds and vegetables as respectively kombu and kale to replace dairy foods as milk (both contain calcium in sufficient amounts). There are some nutrients which are rare to find in sufficient density in plant based foods. One example would be zinc, the exception would be pumpkin seeds that have been soaked for improved digestion. The increased fiber in these foods can also make absorption difficult. Deficiencies are very possible in these nutrients if vegetarians are not very careful and willing to eat sufficient quantities of these exceptional plant based foods. A good way to find these foods would be to search for them on one of the online, nutrient analyzing databases. An example would be

Most humans eat an omnivorous diet (comprising animal source foods and plant source foods) though some civilisations have eaten only animal foods. Although a healthy diet containing all essential macro and micronutrients may be possible by only consuming a plant based diet (with vitamin B12 obtained from supplements if no animal sourced foods are consumed), some populations are unable to consume an adequate quantity or variety of these plant based items to obtain appropriate amounts of nutrients, particularly those that are found in high concentrations in ASF.[1][2] Frequently, the most vulnerable populations to these micronutrient deficiencies are pregnant women, infants, and children in developing countries. In the 1980s the Nutrition Collaborative Research Support Program (NCRSP) found that six micronutrients were low in the mostly vegetarian diets of children in malnourished areas of Egypt, Mexico, and Kenya.[1] These six micronutrients are vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, iron and zinc.[1] ASF are the only food source of Vitamin B12.[3] ASF also provide high biological value protein, energy, fat compared with plant food sources.

Health impacts of micronutrient deficiency[edit]

All six micronutrients richly found in ASF, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, calcium, iron and zinc play a critical role in the growth and development of children.[1][4] Inadequate stores of these micronutrients, either resulting from inadequate intake or poor absorption, is associated with poor growth, anemias (iron deficiency anemia and macrocytic anemia), rickets, night blindness, impaired cognitive functioning, neuromuscular deficits, diminished work capacity, psychiatric disorders and death.[1] Some of these effects, such as impaired cognitive development from an iron deficiency, are irreversible. However, ASF foods have been shown to raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity and other preventable diseases due to the high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol.

Animal source food supplementation[edit]

Micronutrient deficiency is associated in poor early cognitive development.[5] Programs designed to address these micronutrient deficiencies should be targeted to infants, children, and pregnant women. To address these significant micronutrient deficiencies, some global health researchers and practitioners developed and piloted a snack program in Kenya school children.[6] However, some communities are vegetarians for religious or cultural reasons. Efforts must be made to develop culturally appropriate interventions to address the micronutrient deficiencies in these populations, such as through food fortification.

Animal source food production[edit]

According to a 2006 United Nations initiative, the livestock industry sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global."[7] As such, using plant-derived foods is typically considered better for the interests of the environment. Despite this, the raising of certain animals can be more environmentally sound than others. According to the Farralones Institute's report from 1976, raising rabbits, and chickens (on a well-considered approach) for food can still be quite sustainable.[8] As such, the production of meat and other produce, such as eggs, may still be considered environmentally friendly (if this is done in an industrial, high-efficiency manner). In addition, raising goats (for goat milk and meat) can also be environmentally quite friendly and has been favored by certain environmental activists, such as Mahatma Gandhi.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Murphy SP, Allen LH. (2003) Nutritional Importance of Animal Source Foods. J. Nutr. 133: 3932S-3935S.
  2. ^ Dwyer JT. (1994) Vegetarian eating patterns: science, values, and food choices- where do we go from here? Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 59:1255S-1262S.
  3. ^ Stabler SP, Allen RH. (2004) Vitamin B12 Deficiency as a Worldwide Problem. Annu. Rev. Nutr. 24: 299-326.
  4. ^ Black, MM. (2003) Micronutrient Deficiencies and Cognitive Functioning. J. Nutr. 133: 3927S-3931S.
  5. ^ Black MM. (2003) Micronutrients and Cognitive Functioning. J Nutr.133: 3927S-3931S.
  6. ^ Siekmann JH, Allen LH, Bwibo NO, Demment MW, Murphy SP, Neumann CG (2003). Kenyan School Children Have Multiple Micronutrient Deficiencies, but Increased plasma vitamin B12 is the only detectable micronutrient response to meat or milk supplementation. J. Nutr. 133. 3972S-3980S.
  7. ^ LEAD digital library: Livestock’s long shadow - Environmental issues and options Archived 2014-08-06 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Farralones Institute favoring rabbits and chicken, 1976
  9. ^ Gandhi, who favored the environmentally friendly goat and its produce Archived June 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine