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Vegetarianism: Here’s What Experts Say

vegan food

What is Vegetarianism?

Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood, and flesh of any other animal produce) and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter (dairy, eggs, or leather goods).1 The evolution of this food practice dates back as early as 7th century BC and continues in current day with variations in degrees of animal product restriction, including:

  • Pescatarian: A person who does not eat meat, but does eat seafood.
  • Vegetarian: A person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious or health reasons.2
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Does not eat meat, poultry, seafood, or products made from meat, poultry, or seafood (such as gelatin, broths, gravy, and lard), 2 but eats egg and milk products.
  • Lacto-vegetarian: Does not eat meat, poultry, seafood, or products made from meat, poultry, or seafood (such as gelatin, broths, gravy, and lard), eggs or products containing eggs (such as many baked goods). 2
  • Vegan: Does not eat meat, poultry, seafood, or products made from meat, poultry, or seafood (such as gelatin, broths, gravy, and lard), eggs, products containing eggs, milk, dairy foods (such as cheese, yogurt, and ice cream), ingredients made from milk (such as whey and casein), or honey. 2

What are the benefits of Vegetarianism?

In recent years, there has been an increase in the recognition of the health benefits associated with a plant-based eating style. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Position Paper on Vegetarian Diets states, “appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.” 2 The key to a healthy vegetarian diet, as with any other diet, is to eat a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.5
Vegetarian diets can be useful in the treatment of chronic disease and may be effective for:
  • Both short-term (less than a year) and long-term (more than a year) weight loss.
  • Reducing blood glucose levels and insulin levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, although results are mixed.
  • Lowering total and LDL cholesterol levels in subjects being treated for obesity, type 2 diabetes, or cholesterol management. 2

What are the concerns of Vegetarianism?

Some types of vegetarian meal plans require more careful planning to ensure nutritional adequacy. Although well-planned vegetarian meal plans are nutritionally adequate, nutrients that may be of concern due to elimination of meat and/or other animal by-product (dairy), include the following: 2
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Protein
  • N-3 fatty acids
  • Other nutrients of possible concerns for vegans include: Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, Calcium

What are experts saying about Vegetarianism?

  • “Children who eat more than 12 hot dogs per month have nine times the normal risk of developing childhood leukemia.” –Journal of Cancer Causes & Control, 1995.3
  • “A 15-year study of more than 63,000 Chinese citizens found that participants who consumed the most red meat had a 40-percent greater risk of developing chronic kidney disease than those who consumed the lowest amount.” –VegNews (Jan/Feb 2017)4
  • “USDA’s mention of ‘protein foods’ cites evidence showing that a lower intake of meat and processed poultry is associated with reduced risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer in adults.” –VegNews (Jan/Feb 2017)4
  • “Furthermore, a pattern was beginning to emerge: nutrients from animal-based foods increased tumor development while nutrients from plant-based foods decreased tumor development.” – T. Colin Campbell, The China Study
  • “Studies show that people can lose weight on a plant-based diet without measuring portions or counting calories, all while reaping numerous other health benefits.” – Michelle McMacken, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine at NYU School of Medicine, and Director of the Bellevue Hospital Weight Management Clinic. 4
  • “When you build your meals from a generous array of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans- that is, healthy vegetarian choices- weight loss is remarkably easy.” – PCRM, a network of more than 12,000 doctors working to promote plant-based diets, VegNews (Jan/Feb 2017)4
  • “Vegetarians generally have lower body weights compared with omnivores.” – 2015 Study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • “The average person switching to a vegetarian diet can lose an average of 10 pounds.” – PCRM, regarding the 2015 Study from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  • “Health benefits conferred by vegetarian meal plans include lower rates of the following: cardiovascular disease, cancer, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.” – ADA, 2009
  • “A vegetarian diet is associated with lower risk of death from ischemic heart disease.” -Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Evidence Analysis Library
According to experts, meat consumption is linked to increased risk for chronic diseases, while a plant-based eating pattern is associated with decreased body weight, blood cholesterol levels, risk of chronic disease, and many more health benefits. Compared to the average diet, the plant-based added nutritional components of whole-foods, differences in types of fat (little to no saturated fat) and protein (little to no cholesterol), higher intakes of fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals may provide greater protection from a variety of health problems for vegetarians.2 Lifestyle factors associated with vegetarians (decreased tobacco use, higher levels of physical activity, decreased alcohol consumption) may account for some of the health benefits, however differences are seen even when controlling for these factors. 2
This is what experts are saying about vegetarian… What do you say about Vegetarianism?
1 “Vegetarianism.” Wikipedia. Retrieved March 27, 2017. .
2 “Health Benefits of Vegetarian Diets. Eat Right. Nutrition Care Manual. Retrieved March 27, 2017. .
3 Peters, J.M., Preston-Martin, S., London, S.J., Bowman, J.D., Buckley, J.D., Thomas, D.C. Processed meats and risk of childhood leukemia (California, USA). Cancer Causes Control. 1994;5:195–202.
4 Rose, Marla. “The Politics of Dieting.” VegNews Magazine. Jan/Feb 2017.
5 “Vegetarian Nutrition.” The Vegetarian Resource Group. . Retrieved March 27, 2017.

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