Vegan diets are controversial, challenging, increasingly popular, and unimaginable for some. Staunch vegan supporters believe that following the diet improves your health and prevents many diseases. But we know you might be reluctant to take up veganism, not just because you have to give up meat.
Multiple studies have proven the many benefits of veganism. However, just as many studies have also spoken about certain deficiencies specific to vegan diets. Let’s make your life easier and tell you what the research out there says about these plant-based diets.
Advantages Of Veganism According To Research
1. Prevents Cancer
Vegan diets, like any other diet, cannot cure cancer. However, it might be the best option to reduce the risk of and be a complementary diet option for cancer.
Obesity is one of the major risk factors for cancer. With a low-protein and low-fat vegan diet, most vegans tend to have a low BMI, which reduces the risk of cancer and metabolic diseases.
By preventing obesity, a vegan diet obliterates one of the major risk factors for cancer.
A healthy, well-planned vegan diet with a good balance of fruits, vegetables, and legumes can protect against lung, mouth, esophagus, stomach, prostate cancers.1 It also lowers the chances of female-specific cancers.2
2. Treats Diabetes
Vegan diets are known for their effectiveness in improving glycemic control and treating diabetes. The diets treat diabetes in 2 ways:
- Vegan meals increase the antioxidant activity in the body, thus reducing oxidative stress and reducing the need for insulin.3
- Multiple studies have compared a low-fat vegan diet to a diet recommended by the American Diabetes Association and a regular low-fat diet. The vegan diet causes a more significant reduction of blood sugar and cholesterol in those with type-2 diabetes.4 5
3. Reduces Cardiovascular Risk Factors
Vegan diets reduce weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, three of the prominent factors of cardiovascular diseases. According to studies, vegan diets target these factors in both adults and children.6
4. Treats Arthritis Symptoms
By inducing weight loss, vegan diets further improve your chances of treating arthritis.
A vegan diet is your best bet if you’ve symptoms of arthritis or you have a family history. Such diets treat both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis by targeting the symptoms.9 According to the British Journal of Rheumatology, a raw, probiotic-rich vegan diet can reduce the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis more effectively than omnivorous diets.10
5. Alleviates Hypothyroidism
Unlike popular belief, vegan diets actually reduce the risk of hypothyroidism. But you do need to be careful about how you consume specific vegetables. Certain substances, called goitrogens, disrupt thyroid hormone production. These goitrogens are present in foods like soy, sweet potatoes, raw cruciferous veggies, and corn. However, cooking these vegetables removes goitrogens completely.
6. Does Not Harm Pregnant Women Or Newborns
Multiple studies (about 262 texts) have focused on the effect of vegan and vegetarian diets on pregnancy. In all of these studies, there have been no reported malformations in newborns due to vegan diets. However, it is possible that the mother suffers side effects of B12 and iron deficiencies due to the diet.11
7. Induces Significant Weight Loss
Compared to a regular low-fat diet, you have more chances of reducing weight and maintaining it over the long term with low-fat vegan diets and support groups.
Studies have noticed that low-fat vegan diets can result in significant weight loss. Those who follow vegan diets with B12 supplements and low-glycemic foods lose more weight than in any other diet.12 And a low-fat vegan diet has also been seen to help obese postmenopausal women and women with polycystic ovarian syndrome to lose considerable weight.13 14 15
Disadvantages Of Veganism According To Research
1. Causes B-12 deficiency
Vegan plant-based foods do not supply the right amount of vitamin B12 that your body needs. Studies show that almost all vegans suffer from health issues related to vitamin B12 deficiency.16 So you’ve no option but to find other ways to get the nutrient.
Most vegans refuse to take B-12 supplements. If that’s the case, you have an option only between natural foods and fortified products. However, according to one study, the fortified foods are a more efficient alternative to supplements than the natural foods.17
2. Affects Bone Health
Most vegan diets contain lower than the daily recommended intake of calcium, vitamin D, and protein. According to studies, these deficiencies caused a lowered bone density in postmenopausal women and an increased number of hip and spine fractures in the elderly.
Your vegan diet should have enough potassium and vitamin D to counter the effects of vitamin D, calcium, and protein deficiencies.
However, the diets contain a higher intake of potassium and vitamin K, each of which enhances the bone mass density and reduces the possibility of fractures, respectively.
3. Results In Iron Deficiency
Since vegans do not consume any animal-based products, they’re under a higher risk of iron deficiency than are vegetarians and omnivores. A study observed the iron levels in vegan women who consumed more than the recommended iron intake through plant-based foods.18
While the study did not find many cases of anemia, the vegan women were still found to be iron-deficient. So if you’re following a vegan diet, make sure you monitor your iron levels and do the needful to avoid health issues.
|↑1||Marmot, Michael, T. Atinmo, T. Byers, J. Chen, T. Hirohata, A. Jackson, W. James et al. “Food, nutrition, physical activity, and the prevention of cancer: a global perspective.” (2007).|
|↑2||Glick-Bauer, Marian, and Ming-Chin Yeh. “The health advantage of a vegan diet: exploring the gut microbiota connection.” Nutrients 6, no. 11 (2014): 4822-4838.|
|↑3||Belinova, Lenka, Hana Kahleova, Hana Malinska, Ondrej Topolcan, Jindra Vrzalova, Olena Oliyarnyk, Ludmila Kazdova, Martin Hill, and Terezie Pelikanova. “Differential acute postprandial effects of processed meat and isocaloric vegan meals on the gastrointestinal hormone response in subjects suffering from type 2 diabetes and healthy controls: a randomized crossover study.” PloS one 9, no. 9 (2014): e107561.|
|↑4, ↑8||Barnard, Neal D., Joshua Cohen, David JA Jenkins, Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, Lise Gloede, Brent Jaster, Kim Seidl, Amber A. Green, and Stanley Talpers. “A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care 29, no. 8 (2006): 1777-1783.|
|↑5||Barnard, Neal D., Joshua Cohen, David JA Jenkins, Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, Lise Gloede, Amber Green, and Hope Ferdowsian. “A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial.” The American journal of clinical nutrition (2009): ajcn-26736H.|
|↑6, ↑12||Mishra, S., J. Xu, U. Agarwal, J. Gonzales, S. Levin, and Neal D. Barnard. “A multicenter randomized controlled trial of a plant-based nutrition program to reduce body weight and cardiovascular risk in the corporate setting: the GEICO study.” European journal of clinical nutrition 67, no. 7 (2013): 718.|
|↑7||Macknin, Michael, Tammie Kong, Adam Weier, Sarah Worley, Anne S. Tang, Naim Alkhouri, and Mladen Golubic. “Plant-based, no-added-fat or American Heart Association diets: impact on cardiovascular risk in obese children with hypercholesterolemia and their parents.” The Journal of pediatrics 166, no. 4 (2015): 953-959.|
|↑9||Clinton, Chelsea M., Shanley O’Brien, Junwen Law, Colleen M. Renier, and Mary R. Wendt. “Whole-foods, plant-based diet alleviates the symptoms of osteoarthritis.” Arthritis 2015 (2015).|
|↑10||Peltonen, R., M. Nenonen, T. Helve, O. Hänninen, P. Toivanen, and E. Eerola. “Faecal microbial flora and disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis during a vegan diet.” Rheumatology 36, no. 1 (1997): 64-68.|
|↑11||Piccoli, G. B., R. Clari, F. N. Vigotti, F. Leone, R. Attini, G. Cabiddu, G. Mauro et al. “Vegan–vegetarian diets in pregnancy: danger or panacea? A systematic narrative review.” BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology 122, no. 5 (2015): 623-633.|
|↑13||Barnard, Neal D., Anthony R. Scialli, Gabrielle Turner-McGrievy, Amy J. Lanou, and Jolie Glass. “The effects of a low-fat, plant-based dietary intervention on body weight, metabolism, and insulin sensitivity.” The American journal of medicine 118, no. 9 (2005): 991-997.|
|↑14||Turner‐McGrievy, Gabrielle M., Neal D. Barnard, and Anthony R. Scialli. “A Two‐Year Randomized Weight Loss Trial Comparing a Vegan Diet to a More Moderate Low‐Fat Diet.” Obesity 15, no. 9 (2007): 2276-2281.|
|↑15||Turner-McGrievy, Gabrielle M., Charis R. Davidson, Ellen E. Wingard, and Deborah L. Billings. “Low glycemic index vegan or low-calorie weight loss diets for women with polycystic ovary syndrome: a randomized controlled feasibility study.” Nutrition research 34, no. 6 (2014): 552-558.|
|↑16||Gilsing, Anne MJ, Francesca L. Crowe, Zouë Lloyd-Wright, Thomas AB Sanders, Paul N. Appleby, Naomi E. Allen, and Timothy J. Key. “Serum concentrations of vitamin B12 and folate in British male omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans: Results from a cross-sectional analysis of the EPIC-Oxford cohort study.” European journal of clinical nutrition 64, no. 9 (2010): 933.|
|↑17||Mądry, Edyta, Aleksandra Lisowska, and Philip Grebowiec. “The impact of vegan diet on B-12 status in healthy omnivores: five-year prospective study.” Acta scientiarum polonorum Technologia alimentaria 11, no. 2 (2012): 209-212.|
|↑18||Waldmann, Annika, Jochen W. Koschizke, Claus Leitzmann, and Andreas Hahn. “Dietary iron intake and iron status of German female vegans: results of the German vegan study.” Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism 48, no. 2 (2004): 103-108.|