European Journal of Nutrition

, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 283–293 | Cite as

Micronutrient status and intake in omnivores, vegetarians and vegans in Switzerland

  • R. Schüpbach
  • R. Wegmüller
  • C. Berguerand
  • M. Bui
  • I. Herter-AeberliEmail author
Original Contribution



Vegetarian and vegan diets have gained popularity in Switzerland. The nutritional status of individuals who have adopted such diets, however, has not been investigated. The aim of this study was to assess the intake and status of selected vitamins and minerals among vegetarian and vegan adults living in Switzerland.


Healthy adults [omnivores (OVs), n OV = 100; vegetarians (VGs), n VG = 53; vegans (VNs), n VN = 53] aged 18–50 years were recruited, and their weight and height were measured. Plasma concentrations of the vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, B6, B12, folic acid, pantothenic acid, niacin, biotin and β-carotene and of the minerals Fe, Mg and Zn and urinary iodine concentration were determined. Dietary intake was assessed using a three-day weighed food record, and questionnaires were issued in order to assess the physical activity and lifestyle of the subjects.


Omnivores had the lowest intake of Mg, vitamin C, vitamin E, niacin and folic acid. Vegans reported low intakes of Ca and a marginal consumption of the vitamins D and B12. The highest prevalence for vitamin and mineral deficiencies in each group was as follows: in the omnivorous group, for folic acid (58 %); in the vegetarian group, for vitamin B6 and niacin (58 and 34 %, respectively); and in the vegan group, for Zn (47 %). Despite negligible dietary vitamin B12 intake in the vegan group, deficiency of this particular vitamin was low in all groups thanks to widespread use of supplements. Prevalence of Fe deficiency was comparable across all diet groups.


Despite substantial differences in intake and deficiency between groups, our results indicate that by consuming a well-balanced diet including supplements or fortified products, all three types of diet can potentially fulfill requirements for vitamin and mineral consumption.


Vegetarian Vegan Vitamins Minerals Dietary intake Micronutrient status 



We thank all the study participants for their cooperation during the study. Furthermore, we would like to thank Doris Schutz from the Swiss Vitamin Institute for her excellent support during the study and for the vitamin measurements. A big thank you also goes to Stefanie B. Murer, Jasmin Tajeri Foman, Sara Stinca, Valeria Galetti and Christophe Zeder at the Human Nutrition Laboratory at ETH Zurich for their support during the study, for help with translations, sample organization and laboratory analyses. For financial support, we would like to thank the Swiss Foundation for Nutrition Research (SFEFS) and the Swiss Vitamin Institute.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have any conflict of interest regarding this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Schüpbach
    • 1
  • R. Wegmüller
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. Berguerand
    • 3
  • M. Bui
    • 3
  • I. Herter-Aeberli
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Human Nutrition LaboratoryETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.International GroupMRC KenebaKenebaThe Gambia
  3. 3.Swiss Vitamin InstituteEpalingesSwitzerland

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