Shifting to a vegan diet is an extremely personal choice that nobody should be forced into or out of. It is a debate that will go on for a very long time with no consensus in the near future. But no matter what your ethics and values are, your body might have its own say and not be able to adapt to the diet. Here’s why you might not be able to be an absolute vegan like others:
1. Lack Of Vitamin A
For vitamin A, vegans depend on plant-based foods, which are meager sources of the nutrient. This is because, most of these foods, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, contain only a precursor of vitamin A, such as beta-carotene. Beta carotene is then converted by your liver and intestines to form vitamin A.
Hypothyroidism, an unhealthy gut, liver disease, alcohol addiction, and zinc deficiency, with gene mutations, can decrease vitamin A in the body to alarming levels.
This is risky business because some tend to have certain gene mutations that stop this conversion to a large extent. Such mutations are capable of curbing the conversion by 69–90 percent.1 And nearly 45 percent of the population are likely to have this mutation.
So no matter how many carrots, dairy products, or eggs you eat, such health issues will make you vulnerable to vitamin A deficiency. Consequently, most vegans complain of issues such as night blindness, susceptibility to infections, thyroid and dental issues. So go for veganism only if you know that your body can efficiently convert beta-carotenes.
2. Iron And Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vegan food sources are not so rich in iron and vitamin B12. You could opt for fortified foods, soy milk, and other such options. But any vegan or vegetarian you know are extremely likely to a deficiency in these two supplements. This will result in health issues like anemia, numbness, breathlessness, reduced body balance, and memory loss.
Unless you constantly take supplements, animal proteins are your only other option to get your health back on track.
3. Starch Intolerance And Blood Sugar Levels
When you shift from an omnivorous to a vegan diet, you’re drastically shifting to a high-starch and -carbohydrate diet. This can be bad for you as it could lead to a sudden spike in blood sugar, weight gain, low satisfaction with foods, and difficulty in regulating blood sugar.
Depending on the previous diet, people react differently to consuming a high-starch vegan diet.
Here’s why this happens. The human spit contains an enzyme, alpha amylase, that converts starch to sugars. This enzyme is higher in those who consume more starch. So when you suddenly consume more starch in vegan diets, you will experience all of these negative effects on your health.
4. Vitamin K2 And Gut Microbes
Your gut contains specific microbes to synthesize and process different nutrients. These are important to keep your digestive system going strong and improve your immunity. Some of these gut microbes cater just to vitamin K2, keeping many diseases like bone fractures, dental issues, diabetes, prostate and liver cancers, and cardiovascular issues at bay.
While green leafy vegetables contain a huge dose of vitamin K1, no vegan diet can provide enough vitamin K2 apart from a soybean product called natto.2
And any use of antibiotics, due to illnesses, or chemotherapy causes permanent damage to these microbes and also drastically reduce the levels of vitamin K2.3 Be it due to the wrong genes, unhealthy environment, or antibiotics, if you completely remove the source of vitamin K2 with a vegan-only diet, you’ll face all the health factors mentioned earlier. Veganism will not cause a risk of vitamin K2 deficiency if and only if you have a strong microbiome that synthesizes K2.
5. Choline Levels And Cognitive Health
Choline is a little-known nutrient whose benefits include better metabolism and cognitive health. Animal protein contains a high level of choline. However, plant-based foods contain a moderate amount of choline, and our body produces this nutrient using an enzyme. Usually, this much of choline production and intake is enough for our body in a vegan diet.
But choline deficiency is more likely in vegans due to reasons such as these:
- About 550 mg of choline per day is said to be adequate. However, studies have shown that this level of intake can actually cause choline deficiency. Your body might get enough choline from a vegan diet while your friend will need more.4 Also, pregnant women require more choline than others.
- Postmenopausal women need more choline than younger women due to the inability of the enzyme to produce choline. This is affected by the activity of estrogen during this phase.
- There’s always a possibility of gene mutations that can cause various dysfunctions if you’re low on choline.5 And a particular mutation, that is found in 75 percent of the population, actually increases your body’s need of choline to prevent fatty liver disease.
So if you are pregnant, postmenopausal, or are unlucky enough to get the wrong mutations, a vegan diet with low choline can be hazardous to you, causing muscle fatigue, cognitive issues, and fatty liver disease.
|↑1||Leung, W. C., S. Hessel, C. Meplan, J. Flint, V. Oberhauser, F. Tourniaire, J. E. Hesketh, J. Von Lintig, and G. Lietz. “Two common single nucleotide polymorphisms in the gene encoding β-carotene 15, 15′-monoxygenase alter β-carotene metabolism in female volunteers.” The FASEB Journal 23, no. 4 (2009): 1041-1053.|
|↑2||Kaneki, Masao, Stephen J. Hedges, Takayuki Hosoi, Saeko Fujiwara, Anthony Lyons, Nobuhiko Ishida, Mamoru Nakagawa et al. “Japanese fermented soybean food as the major determinant of the large geographic difference in circulating levels of vitamin K2: possible implications for hip-fracture risk.” Nutrition 17, no. 4 (2001): 315-321.|
|↑3||Conly, J., and K. Stein. “Reduction of vitamin K2 concentrations in human liver associated with the use of broad spectrum antimicrobials.” Clinical and investigative medicine 17, no. 6 (1994): 531.|
|↑4||Fischer, Leslie M., Kerry Ann daCosta, Lester Kwock, Paul W. Stewart, Tsui-Shan Lu, Sally P. Stabler, Robert H. Allen, and Steven H. Zeisel. “Sex and menopausal status influence human dietary requirements for the nutrient choline.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 85, no. 5 (2007): 1275-1285.|
|↑5||Kohlmeier, Martin, Kerry-Ann da Costa, Leslie M. Fischer, and Steven H. Zeisel. “Genetic variation of folate-mediated one-carbon transfer pathway predicts susceptibility to choline deficiency in humans.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102, no. 44 (2005): 16025-16030.|