Full blood counts, serum ferritin, vitamin B12 and folate, erythrocyte folate concentrations and nutrient intakes were estimated in twenty-three Indian vegetarian, twenty-two Caucasian omnivores and eighteen Caucasian vegetarian women aged 25–40 years. Energy and copper intakes were lower in the Indian women than in the Caucasians. Intakes of dietary fibre, vitamin C and folate were greater and the proportion of energy derived from fat was lower in the vegetarians than in the omnivores. Vitamin B12 and protein intakes were lower in both vegetarian groups than in the omnivores. Fe intake was similar in all the groups but haem Fe provided one-quarter of the Fe intake of the omnivores. Haemoglobin concentrations were generally inside the normal range in all groups, but were lower in the Indians as were mean corpuscular volume (MCV) and mean corpuscular haemoglobin (MCH). Higher MCV, MCH and lower erythrocyte (RBC) counts were observed in Caucasian vegetarians compared with the Caucasian omnivores. In both groups of vegetarians, concentrations of serum vitamin B12 and ferritin were markedly lower than in the omnivores. RBC folate concentrations were lower in the Indians than in either of the Caucasian groups when subjects taking supplements were excluded. It is concluded that vegetarians need to ensure they have adequate intakes of Fe and vitamin B12.
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