Health

Vegan and vegetarian diets can be dangerous for your health

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Many choose the vegan and vegetarian diets because they feel like it’s a healthier option from a nutritional standpoint. In fact, if you asked the average person on the street if a vegetarian or vegan diet is healthier than an omnivorous diet, they’d probably say yes. But is it really true?

Why vegan and vegetarian diets are not the best healthy option

the plant-based diets they emphasize vegetables, which are quite nutrient-dense, and fruits, which are quite nutrient-dense. They also typically include large amounts of grains (refined and unrefined) and legumes, which are low in bioavailable nutrients and high in antinutrients like phytate.

What is more important, the vegan and vegetarian diets they avoid organ meats, other meats, fish and shellfish, which are among the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat.

Vegan diets, in particular, are almost completely lacking in certain nutrients essential for physiological functioning. Impairments can take months or years to develop, and many go easily undetected because they are not routinely screened for in primary care settings. Several studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans are likely to lack:

  • Vitamin B12
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Long chain fatty acids EPA and DHA
  • Fat-soluble vitamins such as A and D

Vegan and vegetarian diets do not provide enough vitamin B12

B12 deficiency is especially common among vegetarians and vegans. Recent studies using more sensitive techniques to detect B12 deficiency have shown that up to 77% of vegetarians and 92% of vegans are B12 deficient, compared to only 11% of omnivores.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause many symptoms, including:

  • Tired
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Memory loss
  • Neurological and psychiatric problems.
  • Anemia
  • Much more …

It is a common myth among vegetarians and vegans that B12 can be obtained from plant sources such as:

  • seaweed
  • fermented soy
  • Spirulina
  • Yeast

These plant foods do not contain B12. They contain B12 analogues, called cobamides, which block the intake and increase the need for true B12.

If you are vegan, you may be lacking in calcium

You know calcium is important for bone health, but did you know it’s essential for muscle and nerve function and helps blood coagulate? Vegans, however, are often lacking.

The bioavailability of calcium from plant foods is affected by your levels of oxalate and phytate, which are inhibitors of calcium absorption. Green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale are relatively high in calcium, calcium is not absorbed efficiently during digestion.

Trying to meet your daily calcium needs from plant foods alone may not be a good strategy. For those who don’t tolerate dairy well, edible bony fish like sardines are great sources of calcium on a paleo diet.

Iron deficiency with a plant-based diet

Vegetarians and omnivores often have similar serum iron levels, but levels of ferritin, the long-term storage form of iron, are lower in vegetarians than in omnivores.

As with calcium, the bioavailability of iron in plant foods (non-heme) is much lower than in foods of animal origin (heme). Plant-derived forms of iron are also inhibited by other commonly consumed substances, such as:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Dairy products
  • extra fiber
  • extra calcium

This explains why vegetarian diets have been shown to reduce iron absorption by 70% and total iron absorption by 85%.

Red meat, fish and poultry are the best sources of zinc.

Zinc is important for the immune system, cell growth and wound healing, and red meat, poultry and fish are the best sources. Not vegetarians.

Many zinc-containing plant foods also contain phytate, which inhibits zinc absorption. Vegetarian diets tend to reduce zinc absorption by 35% compared to an omnivorous diet. Therefore, even when the diet meets or exceeds the RDA for zinc, a deficiency can still occur.

The benefits of essential fatty acids are lost

Plant foods contain linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, omega-3), both considered essential fatty acids. In this context, an essential fatty acid is an acid that cannot be synthesized by the body and must be taken from the diet. However, a growing body of research has highlighted the benefits of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. These fatty acids play a protective and therapeutic role in a wide range of diseases:

  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • heart disease
  • ADHD
  • autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis

While some of the ALA in plant foods can be converted to EPA and DHA, this conversion is low in humans: 5-10% for EPA and 2-5% for DHA.

Vegetarians have 30% less EPA and DHA than omnivores, while vegans have 50% less EPA and almost 60% less DHA. Eating 12-16 ounces of oily cold water fish per week is still the best way to get adequate amounts of EPA and DHA. Fish will also provide bioavailable protein and selenium.

Vitamins A and D: what you lack

The biggest problem with vegetarian and vegan diets is its almost total lack of two fat-soluble vitamins: A and D.

Fat-soluble vitamins play many critical roles in human health. Vitamin A supports healthy immune function, fertility, eyesight and skin. Vitamin D regulates calcium metabolism, regulates immune function, reduces inflammation and protects against certain forms of cancer.

These important fat-soluble vitamins are concentrated and, in some cases, found almost exclusively in foods of animal origin such as:

  • Seafood
  • organic meat
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products

Vegans and Vegetarians, You May Be Missing These Key Nutrients

If you don’t eat meat or other animal products, you may also be missing:

  • hill
  • Creatine
  • Taurine
  • methionine
  • wisteria
  • Selenium
  • hill

Eating Animal Products Helps Your Thyroid Health

Thyroid hormone synthesis requires iodine, a nutrient that may be lacking in omnivorous and plant-based diets. Most iodine comes from the sea; the soil, and therefore the soil vegetables, generally contain very little. In a typical mixed diet, the highest sources of iodine are iodized salt and animal products such as:

  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Seafood

Your children need nutrient-dense foods to thrive

Vegetarian and vegan diets for children carry significant risks of nutritional deficiencies that can have serious health consequences.

Devastating case studies have reported B12 deficiency in vegan toddlers leading to neurological damage and developmental delays.

The low nutrient intake extends beyond vitamin B12. Other case studies have attributed hypothyroidism in young children to a maternal and/or infant vegan diet. Compared to omnivores, breast milk from vegan mothers had lower levels of DHA and EPA, which are vital for brain development, especially in the first year of life, when a baby’s brain literally doubles. of size.

Is it time to rethink your diet?

From an evolutionary perspective, it is difficult to justify a diet with low levels of several nutrients essential for human function. While these deficiencies can be remedied with specific supplements (a subject that is still debated), it makes much more sense to meet your nutritional needs from food.

This is especially important for children, who are still developing and are even more susceptible to suboptimal intake of the nutrients discussed in this article. Like all parents, vegetarians and vegans want the best for their children. Unfortunately, many are unaware of the potential for nutritional deficiencies posed by their food choices.

I hope this article can serve as a resource for anyone on a plant-based diet, whether or not they decide to go back to eating meat (or animal products, in the case of vegans). .

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