Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood, and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstaining from by-products of animal slaughter. Vegetarians are often found to be deficient in protein, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and calcium (Vegetarian society definition, 2016).
Vegans do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals. Being a vegan or vegetarian are ways to refrain from eating meat products and/or other animal derived products. But recent studies question the benefit of these lifestyles because there is increasing evidence that lack of meat, milk and other dairy products may impair vitamin balance, food absorption, metabolism of lipids and glucose, as well as detoxification of many toxins from our body (Vegan society definition, 2016).
A study from the University of Graz says that in contrary to popular opinion, vegetarian and vegan diets don’t make people healthier. In fact, it is found that vegetarians become ill more often. They are more susceptible to physical and mental disorders and generally have a lower quality of life than people who eat meat. They are at a higher risk for cancer, usually experience more heart attacks, and have a higher incidence of conditions such as asthma, osteoporosis and infertility. They are also more likely to suffer from psychological and immune disorders. However, it is not completely clear and well documented which one is the cause and what is the effect (University of Graz 2016).
There are several questions pertaining to these lifestyles that remain unanswered, such as what drives people to be vegetarian/vegan? Is there a genetic footprint or it is just a hobby or food preference? Is a vegetarianism/veganism lifestyle a type of mental disease that really prompts people to keep themselves away from consuming animal products? It is possible because people put their self into the risk of vitamin deficits and bear the risk of becoming susceptible from many diseases, despite low incidence of metabolic and weight related diseases (Peter Singer, Princeton University professor).
Populations with vegetarian diets have a gene which can increase the risk of heart disease and cancer, scientists believe. The mutation in FADS2 gene is called rs66698963 identified by scientists at Cornell University, which helps those who eat plant-based diets to process omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids into compounds that help the development of the brain and control inflammation in the body. However, the vegetarian gene variation could also cause a spike in the production of arachidonic acid, which makes the body prone to inflammation and has been linked to heart disease and cancer (Tom Brenna, Human Nutrition at Cornell).
It is true that vegetarians/vegans have more healthy and balanced microbiome, and have less problems with caloric intake, but it is unreasonable to risk the health of our body at the expense of reducing calories. The best solution would be to find a balance between consuming vegetables, fruits and animal products. It is hypothesized that toxins of vegetables, fruits and animal products detoxify one another.
COPYRIGHT: This article is property of We Speak Science, a nonprofit institution co-founded by Dr. Detina Zalli (Harvard University) and Dr. Argita Zalli (Imperial College London). The article is written by Vedat Sunguri ( Master of Pharmacy, University of Pristina) .